Since she was born, Faith Schreiner, senior business management major, has always had to do everything differently. Tasks that other people take for granted, such as putting their hair up, shaking someone’s hand, or tying their shoes, are far more difficult for her to accomplish.
Schreiner is a congenital amputee, which means she was born missing her right arm.
“The main challenge is that I had to do everything differently,” Schreiner said. “I could not do what you do, it had to be modified.”
After finding out about a bionic hand, the BeBonic Small, that attaches to her arm and uses sensors and different grip patterns to make precise movements guided by her muscles, Schreiner said that her outlook on life changed completely.
“It’s literally going to change my life,” Schreiner said. “It’s going to make everything easier. Yes, I may be able to do some things but I have to jump through so many hoops in order to do them and having this hand will enable me to actually do them without the issues and actually make other things possible for me.”
A hand isn’t a luxury
Yet, as vital as Schreiner considers it, her and her family have faced numerous setbacks during their attempt to get the bionic hand.
Their insurance considers the bionic hand to be a luxury and won’t cover the cost, according to Schreiner.
“We tried to get more but they kept shooting down the code, saying it was a luxury item. That was the big one they liked to call it,” Schreiner said. “We turned in doctor’s notes, I turned in a letter, a user statement of need.”
The process for getting the hand has been lengthy, spanning multiple fundraisers, insurance battles and attempts to find the most affordable price. Part of the complications included the cost, because the BeBionic is normally around $135,000, according to Chris Haba, her stepdad.
“I truly believed her whole life that she was fine until we started this process and then I realized that I don’t live in her body, or her world, and didn’t realize the challenges she faced,” said Marie Haba, Schreiner’s mom. “She’s always been making it seem like she was fine, and as we started this process, I realized she wasn’t fine.”
After reading the letter that Schreiner sent to the insurance company and talking to her, Marie realized that getting the bionic hand was something they needed to do.
The insurance will cover the cost of regular visits to the prosthesis, but won’t cover anything towards the actual bionic, according to Chris.
Since prosthetics are custom, there isn’t a base price that the insurance will put towards the total, like what would happen if someone were to purchase an electronic wheelchair, Chris said.
He called numerous places, trying to find a way to decrease the cost, even attempting to purchase it piece by piece and put it together, until they eventually found Horizon Orthopedic and Prosthetic Experience, which offered the BeBonic Small for approximately $40,000.
“You just have to keep trying. That’s one thing I told Faith,” Chris said. “We’ll get this done, keep trying. We just kept thinking about what avenues we had, what we can come up with, how can we make this work.”
They received a lot of fundraising support from patrons at Charlie’s Place, 116 Commercial St., which they own.
“Our patrons at this place supported her 100 percent, they help put fundraisers on, they’re here to work it with us,” Marie said. “They participate and it’s really amazing.”
Through fundraisers, which included a softball tournament, a benefit ride, and a GoFundme, they raised nearly half of the cost, according to Marie.
After all the fundraising, the complications with the insurance company, and other setbacks, Schreiner still considers the bionic hand a necessity, rather than a luxury.
“I honestly wouldn’t call it a luxury item, simply because I don’t see it as a luxury for people to have two hands, because it’s a given,” Schreiner said. “Most everybody is born with two hands, two legs, kind of thing. It’s very frustrating that the insurance company would not see the need for something so given.”
Schreiner hopes that the bionic hand will give her the confidence to pursue her dreams and challenge herself.
As a child, Schreiner faced bullying and criticism from her peers because of her hand.
“When you’re in grade school and high school, a lot of people like to pick things out about you and make fun of you,” Schreiner said. “I was kind of quiet about it. I think it was a huge deal like a ‘kids will be kids’ kind of thing. But as I’ve gotten older and realized how people should be treated, it’s not great. I had a very rough grade school and high school and I’m very self conscious of (my hand).”
With the bionic hand, Schreiner hopes to push back against the fears and reservations that keep her from living life to the fullest.
“I’m really looking forward to having this arm because I feel like it would give me a whole new outlook on life and doing things that I actually want to and not holding myself back,” Schreiner said.
Her family has been her biggest support through her life and they never treated her any differently, often encouraging her to try new challenges, according to Schreiner. They put themselves in her shoes, helped her figure out how to complete tasks and supported her along the way, she said.
Making little tasks easier
Before learning about the hand, Schreiner never considered that she would be able to become a veterinary technician.
“I don’t think I can do that with one hand,” Schreiner said. “Maybe, but there’s things like when you administer a shot, you have to pinch the skin and put the shot into that area, you also have to hold the animal...there’s a lot of two handed activities involved in veterinary technology, that I would actually be able to do with this prosthetic.”
Currently, Schreiner is in the fitting process of the bionic hand, according to Chris, which includes the custom fitting, the rotating wrist, and the sensors.
Once it’s fitted, programmed and Schreiner has it, she plans to take some time off of school and learn how to use it. Going from having one hand to two will require a lengthy learning process and a lot of physical therapy, according to Schreiner.
A lot of people have asked what the first thing she’ll do once she has the bionic hand and have said they want to be her first two handed high-five or first handshake, Schreiner said.
“I used to want to do those salt and pepper grinders,” Schreiner said. “I was at a restaurant and I was kind of shaking it because I can’t turn them, I want to say that. I’m just going to go to the local Applebee’s and turn the salt and pepper shakers.”
Mostly, though, Schreiner is excited to be able to chase her dreams, she said.
“Finding this hand has given me so much hope and drive and excitement and every good word you can think of, to actually not be settled in my ways,” Schreiner said. “To go out and do what you want to do and make those little tasks easier.”