Student gets a helping hand
May 23, 2023
Junior Noah Whitaker was diagnosed with a disability at seven years old, which has affected his daily life ever since, confining him to a motorized wheelchair most of his life.
“I’m diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type two, which is a muscular disease that targets the proteins in your body called SMNs, that allow your muscles to grow and get stronger,” Whitaker said. “It limits basic reach and strength, and confines you to your wheelchair, whole bunch of different things. Basically, it weakens me.”
Despite these problems, it hasn’t prevented him from living life to the fullest and doing what he wants to pursue later on in his life. Whitaker is part of RHS’ Eye of the Tiger news broadcast, student government, and some outside of school hobbies also. He plans to start a media career.
“I do photography and graphic design,” he said. “I [also] started my own media business: @able.media.”
Recently, Whitaker received a helping hand – a controllable robotic arm, (The Kinova Jaco assistive robotic arm,) which since receiving it, has helped him drastically with his daily routines.
“Basically [it’s] a robotic arm that attaches to motorized wheelchairs, connects to the battery, and [I’m] able to control it,” he said. “Controls of the wheelchair, it can reach up to three feet, pick up to five pounds fully extended, and it helps me with pretty much anything a normal arm would do.”
Although the arm was fairly expensive, costing roughly $70,000, Whitaker struck some luck while trying to get it. He has had the arm since May 14th, and has been using it for everyday needs, being extremely grateful for it.
“Luckily, I submitted it through state insurance and after fighting for it for a couple years, they finally accepted.” he said. “I first tried getting the arm back in 2019 through private insurance, and they denied it three times.”
With his new Jaco arm, Whitaker hopes it can help him throughout his future. Whitaker plans on attending college after high school, and he hopes to be fully independent and self-reliant in a dormitory and around the school, all throughout the day.
“No assistance needed is the goal.”