Angel Hands


This is a heart-warming and heart-wrenching story that was published in the St. Petersburg Times on July 5 about an invention called Angel Hands. It rolls under the legs of a disabled person, then closes and lifts.


Angel Hands' inventor, Gary Kluckhuhn, envisions it moving through different parts of a disabled person's home on ceiling tracks, giving him new found independence.  No need for a caregiver to carry him or slide him into a more traditional patient lift. Kluckhuhn's stepmother, who works with disabled people, said "hoisting people in slings (is) a remnant of the Dark Ages."

The story of Angel Hands is intertwined with the story of J.T. Doody, a marine who lost a leg in Iraq. He also suffered from a bacerial infection that affected his brain.

Here's how the story ends...or should I say begins:

Just a few weeks ago, an Angel Hands prototype hung from J.T.'s ceiling. It was the first test spin on an actual patient. A VA official was there to witness.

Robert Bolline, the man who lifts lifeboats, worked a control box that dropped the robotic hands on either side of J.T.'s hips. The little conveyor belts spun with a soft whir, and the hands slid under J.T.'s legs.

J.T. yelled, "Up, up and away!"

He was aloft, swinging toward his wheelchair.

Angel Hands' makers believe it requires a thousand more hours of engineering and a couple of more million dollars. They've approached the National Institutes of Health for a small business innovation and research grant. The goal is to develop a sleeker, smaller Angel Hands that J.T. and other disabled people can operate.

Then, when J.T. one day finds his own reasons for getting out of bed, he'll be able to do it himself.

Liz Beaulieu