by Laura Medcalf
When many see a child throwing a ball, they likely don’t stop and stare in amazement; after all, throwing a ball is such a simple task, right? Well, something so “simple” as throwing a ball is a great milestone in Hannah Mohn’s life.
Hannah is a four-year-old born with arthrogryposis, a neuromuscular disease which causes her joints to curve and her muscles to be extremely weak. As a result, she is unable to lift her arms very high without assistance. When Jennifer Mohn, Hannah’s mother, was five months pregnant with her, she was sat down and told by medical professionals that Hannah wasn’t expected to survive birth. However, she survived, but with a challenging, long road ahead; Hannah defied odds from the beginning and continues to do so.
Hannah’s mother, Jennifer Mohn stated in a CNN interview: “When we saw my pediatrician… for one of her first visits, she said even if her legs don’t work well enough for her to walk, the biggest thing that we need to work on is making sure that her hands and arms are working to the fullest extent… if she has use of her hands and arms, she will be able to care for herself. If she doesn’t have the ability to use her legs, she can at least use a wheelchair. And that always stuck with me.”
Hannah’s chance at an independent life came when she was 18 months old and she visited the Dupont Children’s Hospital in Delaware, a top hospital in the United States. While here, she worked with Whitney Samples, a research design engineer at the hospital who has been working on devices for children with neuromuscular diseases for 25 years. Hannah began using his 3-D printed device coined the “WREX”—which stands for “Wilmington Robotic EXoskeleton.” With the device, Hannah was able to raise her arms without assistance.
Hannah had an assignment at school describing her hero. Her answer? Whitney Samples, the engineer who is granting her and other children with neuromuscular diseases the opportunity to use their arms with his 3-D printed designs. Even after 25 years of working with these children, he still gets very emotional and is always looking on ways to improve his devices. He says a major benefit of 3-D printing is that it allows you to be very precise, thus granting many opportunities not otherwise available.