College Student With SMA Raising Money to Acquire a Robotic Arm

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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Carson Berry is a Junior at Coastal Carolina University studying marine biology. Berry also has SMA type 2, and in recent years, his condition has taken a significant toll on his arm strength and upper-body strength. Whereas he used to have enough muscle strength to lift light objects and slightly raise his arms, he is now unable to even feed himself and struggles to type on his computer.

“Having to be fed like a baby in public is kind of embarrassing,” Berry said in an email interview. “I also am constantly asking friends, family or classmates to help me reach things in class.”

Recently however, Berry tested out a JACO robotic arm from Kinova Robotics, which allowed him to feed himself for the first time in two years. This product is specially designed so that it can be mounted to a power wheelchair and controlled by the wheelchair-user’s joystick. With multiple joints and capabilities, the arm can be used to pick up objects, help someone in a wheelchair eat and drink, press elevator buttons and even scratch the user’s head.

MORE: Three pieces of advice for acquiring a new wheelchair

Berry and his family recently launched a fundraising campaign on for him to acquire a JACO arm. Though some insurance providers have covered the $50,000 cost for other individuals, Berry said it wasn’t a guarantee that his provider would; and even if they did, there’s no telling how long it would take to approve the cost and fill out all the paperwork. As such, he and his family are reaching out to friends, family, and small businesses, and are actively promoting the campaign on social media to raise the money. They hope to have the funding secured within a few months so that Berry can have his robotic arm for the remainder of his college career.

“Being able to push strike plates and open doors and operate elevators by myself would greatly increase my independence,” Berry said. “The arm would enhance my ability to succeed in my major and career field, which consists of a lot of lab work. I would be able to do experiments by myself and help out in lab environments.”

MORE: Five tips for going to school when you have SMA

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