The Bionic Rower

Muslim Matters

The Bionic Rower

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of,

rowing-river_420In August of 2011, Mohamed Al-Rabti, a member of the Libyan national rowing team, was seriously injured when his anti-government military unit was attacked by forces backing former Libyan president Moammar Ghadafi. The attack resulted in injuries that forced an above elbow amputation of Al-Rabti’s left arm. And beyond the dysfunction of the amputation, Al-Rabti soon suffered from debilitating chronic pain.

He saw doctor after doctor in both north Africa as well as Europe, but no one could find a cure for his pain. Finally, through the assistance of his cousin Salem Bensasi in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the U.S., Al-Rabti came to see the doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. There, it was discovered that a bundle of nerves, called a neuroma, was the cause of his extreme pain. The neuroma was then surgically removed, and Al-Rabti was rendered virtually pain free afterward. In addition, he was fitted for a prosthetic limb custom-designed for rowing, as well as a specialized neuroprosthetic arm for greater dexterity with his activities of daily living.

By October of 2012, Al-Rabti was rowing on the Alleghany River in Pittsburgh. A rower since the age of 16, and a member of the Libya’s national team since the age of 18, Al-Rabti now plans to return to Libya to not only rejoin the national team, but also to begin training for the 2013 Arab Games. And the 2013 Summer Olympics in Brazil are his next goal after that. For Mohamed Al-Rabti, the river has certainly taken a winding path.


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