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“Can you give me a thumbs up?” the surgeon asks Jerry Majetich, an Iraq War veteran, during a checkup this spring at a Boston hospital. “Can you make me a fist? And extend your fingers?”

It is an odd, even jarring, series of requests to make of a patient whose right arm has been amputated above the wrist and who, during the checkup, is not even wearing a prosthetic. And yet, to Majetich, they make sense. After each command from the doctor, he does what he is asked. You can see the muscles flex under the skin of what is left of his forearm.

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