Carson Berry, a marine science junior, is fundraising to get a robotic arm.
Berry has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 2 and in the past few years, he has been robbed of his arm strength and upper-body strength.
SMA is a disease that takes away people’s physical strength by affecting the motor nerve cells in the spinal cord, preventing the ability to walk, eat or breathe.
Berry, who went from being able to feed himself a couple of years ago, now can’t even swat a fly out of his face. However, the condition hasn’t impacted his career and schooling aspirations.
“Over the past couple of years, my arm strength has deteriorated, and it’s getting hard to do my school work and stuff, but I don’t want to stop my school work because of that,” said Berry. “Most people with disabilities don’t go into the science field because they know it’s physically challenging, but there are ways to do things. Just because I can’t do one thing, doesn’t mean I can’t do the others.”
Berry was able to feed himself for the first time in two years when he tested out a JACO robotic arm from Kinova Robotics recently.
"I actually shed a tear of happiness," said Berry. "It was just a cracker, but it was a significant moment. I was also able to open a doorknob…if there was to be an emergency and I’m home alone, I would be able to get out by myself [with this robotic arm.]
The arm is specially designed to mount to a power wheelchair and can be controlled by the joystick. It allows the user to pick up objects and do other simple tasks that aren't so simple for Berry anymore.
Since then, Berry has been working to get a robotic arm so he can get a piece of his life back. However, the insurance company is making it an agonizing process.
“Insurance is very picky with high-priced items. This robotic arm costs $50,000,” said Berry. “It took me about two years of fighting with the insurance company to get my newest wheelchair, which is $40,000. They don’t see it as a medical necessity.”
That’s why Berry said he’s doing it himself.
“It would most likely take less time to fundraise than to deal with insurance,” said Berry. send letters and do all that stuff.
Through an online campaign, Berry’s friends and family have raised about $5,000 so far to go toward his new robotic arm, but he wants to take it a step further.
He said he is working with the University to get some type of fundraising event put together.
He is hoping to raise enough money to get his robotic arm so he can succeed in not only in the workplace but also in life.
“People with disabilities, like me, have career aspirations. We can do things about as good as anybody else can, we just have to do it in a different way,” said Berry. “My arms don’t work, but if I get this robotic arm, I could still do the job I need to do in the future and be successful and productive in society.”
We have reached out to University officials about future fundraising events. We will update this story when we learn more.
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Carson Berry, right (Facebook)
Carson Berry (Facebook)