On Tuesday, senior Carla Rivera was gifted a mechanical hand created for her by her own classmates and technology teacher. Rivera was born with a birth defect that stopped her arm right below the left elbow, but with this new addition comes new opportunities.
As a student in Ms. Bogoski’s Foundations of Technology class, once the class started to learn about telemedicine, Rivera immediately came to Ms. Bogoski’s mind.
“I [did a lesson] on a mechanical hand, where the [students] had to [build a hand] out of cardboard and string and I found this great video of a boy who had a birth defect and had gotten a prosthetic hand and he talked about how it affected him before and after,” said Ms. Bogoski. “I thought ‘that’s a great lesson for the kids’ and Carla being there with her deformity, [we have] the opportunity to help her out and give her an arm that she hasn’t had for 17 years.”
After seeing the video and being told about the lesson, Rivera, who had been absent the day the class watched the video, was moved to tears. She saw herself in the young child, and she was extremely overwhelmed with and grateful for her new opportunity.
“When Carla came back from being sick, I gave her the introduction to the lesson and showed her the video and I asked her if she would want us to print her hand and she just [broke down into] a fountain of tears,” said Ms. Bogoski. “And [I asked her], ‘Carla are those happy tears?’ and she said ‘Yes! Very happy.’”
The class itself was also taken aback by the idea and offer from Ms. Bogoski to Rivera of making the prosthetic for her.
Junior Ileney Diaz, a student in Ms. Bogoski’s fourth period B-Day class with Carla, said that the project came as a shock.
“When [Ms. Bogoski] offered to help [Carla], it was shocking,” said Ileney. “It was nice, it was a whole other emotion. It was a lot. But, it was something sweet because Ms. Bogoski didn’t have to do this. It was really nice.”
The project has served as a way to not only help Rivera directly, but it has also given the students a first-hand experience of telemedicine that other classes do not have.
“To bring [the message of the lesson] home, it really helped to have Carla in the class so that they could actually see with their own eyes someone with this medical issue,” said Ms. Bogoski.
The prosthetic was made with the help of the three three-dimensional printers at Parkdale and with templates from the company eNable’s website.
The non-profit company eNable provides online template files for free that can be used to prints hands and arm prosthetics for children. One of the three styles of prosthetic Rivera chose is called the “UnLimbited ‘Alfie’ Arm,” which extends from the elbow making a forearm and hand with operable fingers. Rivera chose the arm to be in the colors purple and pink.
The production began on February 26th with the printing that took around a month to complete, and over the course of two months of strategic work, has finally been completed. This means that Rivera will have her arm before graduation on May 30th.
“I’m so happy [with the prosthetic],” said Rivera, after the fitting of the prosthetic on Tuesday. “It’s comfortable.”
Rivera has never considered getting a prosthetic before now and never considered the chance of her being able to get such a device to help her. Regardless, both her classmates and teacher say that she works perfectly fine without one.
“Carla is very dexterous with just one hand,” said Ms. Bogoski. She can do a lot of things, she’s not very limited on class, especially with a hands-on curriculum.”
Going on her third year in America, Rivera is getting the chance of a new life with the help of her teacher and peers.