How One Retired Staff Sergeant Found the Life He Thought He’d Lost

James Sides retired after a debilitating injury, but the Alfred Mann Foundation is helping him recover what he lost.


When James Sides was in the midst of his second tour of Afghanistan, he encountered an IED in the road. As he worked on uncovering and dismantling the device, something went wrong and the bomb exploded. The traumatic moment took Sides’ right hand and changed his life forever.

His recovery was healthy, but he had trouble doing very basic tasks like handling his wallet or tying his shoes. Without a second, functioning hand, Sides struggled just to live his everyday life. The Alfred Mann Foundation recognized what Sides was going through and decided to help.

The Alfred Mann Foundation plays a key role in helping to further the development of robot prosthetics, and improve the usage of robotics in medicine. Sides agreed to test out one of their new projects, a robotic hand with three ranges of motion. Although Sides can’t do things effortless, yet, he can move each digit independently. That’s a major breakthrough for medical science.

A small sensor surgically embedded in Sides’ arm reads the way his muscles move. As we move our hands, muscles that run throughout our arms move with our fingers and wrist. The sensor helps fill in the gap of what Sides lost, translating those small movements into data that signals the hand to perform a certain way.

Sides is the first candidate to receive the hand, and Steve Doctrow of Rogers & Cowan is helping to promote this important moment in medical history. The hope is that this will open up a new field of medical prosthetics, and help put prosthetics into the patients who need them. Soon, those who have lost limbs from traumatic accidents won’t have to struggle everyday to perform basic tasks.