- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Brian Jordan was building a boat in his home workshop. It was a place where he went for peace, to make things he’d imagined become real and to get energized.
One evening in May 2012, Jordan had just moved a vintage saw that once belonged to his grandfather. “It had an electrical short in it,” Jordan said, but he held on to it because of the memories, and he planned to fix it someday. After Jordan sat the saw down, it suddenly turned on and startled him. When he spun around, two of his fingers and the thumb of his left hand were severed in the blade.
“It happened so fast. I said, ‘Oh. They’re gone.’” Jordan said his 8-year-old son, who was working with him, noticed before he did. “It felt like someone tapped my hand.”
“I went from disbelief initially. Then from disbelief to about 10 seconds of terror. Then it was like, ‘OK, get it together.’”
Ultimately, he said, “I looked at it as a blessing. No matter how bad the situation is, you have to look at the silver lining ... Once I collected myself, I knew there was a reason for it. God knows what it is.
“I think maybe it’s [for me] to do prosthetics.”
Doctors were able to save his thumb. The middle finger had been so badly damaged they couldn’t save it. So doctors decided to attach the tip of his index finger to his middle finger. “When you grab things, most of the power comes from the pinky, ring and middle finger,” Jordan said. “The index finger is more for dexterity, little details.”
He was left without an index finger. After he found he was not able to use a drive-up ATM, or properly type on a keyboard, Jordan created his own prosthetic through his Hollywood-based company, Robiotech.
Along with several of his other inventions, his company’s website, www.robiotech.net, shows Jordan picking up a tiny cup and logging into his laptop while using the prosthetic. It looks like a bionic attachment made of small clips and pads, which he calls “a rough design.” He hopes to get funding to refine and manufacture it on a larger scale. “You can actually do things that you did before, or I can anyway,” Jordan said in one of his videos. “I use the finger as I would any other finger.”
But “it’s not about you. It’s about how you can help other people,” Jordan, a former Navy flight officer, said in a separate interview. “How can the world benefit from me losing my finger?”
His dream is to someday produce the prosthetics as a not-for-profit endeavor, and work with corporations or foundations to give the prosthetics to children and impoverished amputees around the world.
“That’s why I fell in love with him,” said Jordan’s wife, Donna. “All that genius and such a sweet spirit. It’s such an unusual, cool combination. He’s a bubbling cauldron of ideas at all times.”
Jordan has always had a gift for innovation, said his father, Claude Jordan, on a call Monday night from Suffolk, Va. Claude remembered 40 years ago, when he was replacing the engine of his Dodge Challenger. The younger Jordan was at his side. “He said, ‘Don’t throw that away. I’m going to use that for my robot’s brain.’”
“It shocked me because he was 2 years old,” Claude said, laughing. “He could look at anything and say what I could use it for.”
Jordan’s mother, Dale, also on a call from Virginia, said she remembered when Jordan put LED bulbs in the bottom of his Chuck Taylor sneakers. “He did that when he was in the fifth grade,” she said. “I said, ‘Wow. Look at that.’ I thought it was crazy,” she said. Now, kids everywhere seem to be wearing them.
Jordan remembers students laughing at him then, too. But it’s all taught him to stick to his guns today, he said. He never took that invention to market. He’d given up because of what his peers thought. Now “I get calls from inventors all the time,” he said, but you have to be wary of the dream stealers. “Follow your heart and what you believe,” he said. “The dream stealers can be the closest people to you sometimes.”
So this dream, of developing the prosthetics, he plans to follow to completion.
“And what he says he’s going to do, he does it,” his mother said. “He’s always been that way.”
“I like to invent — that’s what I do best,” Jordan said. “If you have a dream, something you’re passionate about, you have to go for it.”