My Experience with the JACO Robotic Arm

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by BNS Staff |

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Refined By Fire Ryan Berhar
Throughout my life, I have required assistance with the most basic tasks. Things like scratching my head, getting myself a drink, or picking something up off the floor are just a few items on a never-ending list of impossibilities. Fortunately, there is now technology that can help me perform such tasks.

Last October, I had the privilege of trying out a JACO robotic arm. I want to thank fellow columnist and friend Kevin Schaefer, who has a JACO of his own, for putting me in touch with the company that sells these life-changing devices. The arm functions in an easy, simple way. It runs off my chair’s battery and is controlled with my joystick. The sales rep told me that I had picked up in a matter of minutes what others took days to master.

The first question he asked me was if I played video games. That was the difference. I had known, despite warnings from others that I was wasting my time, that becoming proficient in video games would someday pay off.

With my deteriorating arm and hand strength, my list of inabilities keeps getting longer, but JACO will shorten it significantly. Some obvious uses come to mind, such as opening doors, picking something up, or strangling my little brother (kidding). Being able to perform those simple tasks are, on their own, life-changing. But it was apparent after only a few hours that the uses for it are limited only by your creativity.

If you make modifications to your environment, even more doors (literally and figuratively) can be opened. For example, you could tie a rope around that awkward refrigerator door, and use the arm to open the door easily. It might be tough to retrieve a cup from the cupboard, so maybe have a few sitting on the counter.

The most difficult task I completed was making my own cup of coffee with my Keurig. It was not easy — I nearly crushed the styrofoam cup — but ultimately, it was a success, and it’s a process I’ll eventually get down to a science. I love coffee, so making my own cup was special.

Although I have not yet received treatment to stop the progression of my disease, and while I reluctantly had to return the demo unit after only a few too-short hours, I am glad this technology exists to help me.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.