LOUDONVILLE — A group of Siena College students changed a life forever by gifting a young girl who was missing a right hand with a prosthetic arm.
Eight students, led by now-senior Alyx Gleason, had been working for a year on a prosthetic arm for Stillwater 9-year-old Karissa Mitchell, who was born without a right hand and wrist. The plastic arm, which cost less than $50 to manufacture, was given to her for free, as opposed to a prosthetic, which would costs thousands of dollars.
The arm, which is Disney’s “Frozen” themed right now, is customizable and can change as Karissa grows. Gleason said the fact that Karissa is local means that they’ll be able to get feedback on the arm, and hopefully learn what they can improve while making more limbs in the future.
Gleason hopes that the arm will help Karissa do things such as carry bags, pick up toys, and be able to move things to her dominant hand. “So, little things that we take for granted, but that she might not be able to do every day,” Gleason said at a press conference Wednesday, June 22.
The students are a part of the Siena e-NABLE chapter, a national organization that specializes in using 3D printing technology to create prosthetic arms for people all over the world. Last April, the Siena team delivered a prosthetic arm to a five-year-old in Ohio. Karissa’s mother, Maria Mitchell, saw a news story about the boy and was able to get in touch with the students to begin crafting an arm for her daughter.
The project took about a year to complete, along with a trial-and-error period. The students met with Karissa around three times to take measurements and test prototypes. It took about 30 hours to print all of the parts and around two to fully assemble the arm, according to Glearson.
Karissa said she plans to pick up objects, and perhaps even write with her new limb. “It feels like I have a real hand,” she said.
“I am so happy that she loves the arm. This has been almost a yearlong process, working this out with her and her family. So, for her to be so excited about it is just an amazing feeling,” Gleason said.
Maria Mitchell expressed her gratitude towards the students for providing children in need with something they might now otherwise have access to, due to the high costs of prosthetics. The year spent creating the arm was great, according to Mitchell, who said she wasn’t at all anxious or nervous during the process.
“What got me was when she said it felt like she had a real hand. As she’s grown up, she hasn’t had many moments where she’s been sad about it, but she has had those moments, and to hear her say that is just unbelievable. It’s unbelievable,” Mitchell said. “Her future is limitless.”