Veterans

'It's Wonderful': Robotic Arm A Life-Changer For Veteran Paratrooper

Jon Noble was seriously injured in a road traffic accident in 2003, leaving him paralysed in his hands, arms, torso, and legs.

A former paratrooper who was paralysed in an accident in 2003 is the first veteran in the UK to own a JACO assistive robotic arm.

It means that for the first time in 17 years, Jon Noble is able to feed himself by using the arm mounted on his motorised wheelchair.

Jon was badly injured in a road traffic accident in 2003, which left him as a C4 tetraplegic – that is paralysed in the hands, arms, torso, and legs.

The former paratrooper served four years in 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, completing two tours of Northern Ireland and one in Iraq.

Jon told Forces News the robotic arm has transformed his life after what has been a long and emotional journey.

"I used to lie in bed and just say 'just give me one arm, just one arm'.

"I've got it now. I've got my arm – amazing," he said.

Jon Noble served four years in 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, completing two tours of Northern Ireland and one in Iraq.

"This means starting chapter two of my life. Military, yes, it was in the past, it will always be with me, but I need to move on."

Jon's robotic arm arrived in June thanks to funding from military charities, including Blesma.

"All I wanted to do was join the Army, and I got into the Parachute Regiment, which was always the dream.

"Then to be taken away from you in the blink of an eye and to try and find another interest, I sort of feel a little bit like I have no purpose, which is quite a hard one for me because, obviously, you're relying on everyone to do everything for you.

The robotic device, made by JACO, was developed in Canada and is used across the world. 

It mimics 16 shoulder, elbow and wrist movements, giving Jon the versatility of a fully functioning arm. 

Only two of these robotic arms – including the one Jon owns – are currently being used in the UK.

Jon told Forces News it is already giving him a new independent lease of life. 

"It might not seem amazing but my dad came the other week and I was able to give him a bottle of beer and welcome him to my house which is huge for me," he said.

"Another one is scratching my own head, which is a killer when you've got to wait for somebody to come and do it – it's like a stress test. 

"So yeah, it's the simple things that are going to have the biggest impact, I think."

Former paratrooper Jon Noble used his new robotic arm to give his dad a beer (Picture: Stephen Cooper).

His wife and main carer, Glynnis, who he met in 2007 and married last year, discovered the JACO arm on Christmas Day on YouTube. 

"It's given him independence. He can do things for himself which he never used to be able to do – got to get used to that," Glynnis said.

"It's given him a confidence, it's made him look forward, whereas before I think he felt very hampered by his limitations."

She says the life-changing device has "made all the difference" to his mental health.

"It's wonderful, absolutely wonderful, and it is a dream of his."

"He was hoping and hoping and hoping for something like this, so to find it is incredible."

Jon hopes to continue to build in confidence using the robotic arm but also hopes to spread awareness to other veterans in a similar position.

"It doesn't have to be controlled through a chin control, you can have a hand control.

"If there's veterans, amputees [with] any sort of injury that people have lost that motor function... they'll be able to improve their life massively," he said.

"If one person sees this and has a little bit of hope, that's amazing to me."