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Valley woman seeks independence through robotic arm

Posted at 10:38 PM, May 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 13:27:32-04

QUEEN CREEK — Never able to walk due to a worsening muscle condition, a Valley woman is determined to find a way to access a tool to better the quality of her life.

As Karole MacFarlane has gotten older, the list of things she's been able to do without the help of others has gotten shorter and shorter.

"I can't get my hair out of my face, a lot of times it's in my eyes,” she said.

Since birth, Karole has lived with spinal muscular atrophy.

A genetic disorder she says basically keeps neurons from communicating with her muscles which has led her to lose most of her physical strength.

Once a singer, she says she’s even noticed her voice losing strength.

Simple tasks like flipping a light switch aren’t possible for her without the help of someone else.

“One time I was by myself, and this mosquito landed on my nose, and I had to watch it bite me. I'll tell you it was mortifying,” she said.

Now, just because Karole couldn't physically do some of these little things, her condition didn't keep her from accomplishing some of life's biggest.

She's a homeowner in the growing community of Queen Creek with her husband, she once molded young minds as an independent tutor at ASU. She left that behind to pursue a passion of being a mother. She stayed at home to raise and home school her daughter who's now 24 years old.

Still — not having the ability to do some of those little things adds up.

"I really want to interact with my dog again,” said Karole as she started to cry.

A few years ago, Karole met some of the people behind a robotic arm at an ability’s expo in Phoenix.

A three-finger arm from Kinova Robotics that she feels would hand her independence she hasn't had in decades.

“It would help me to eat, I don't feed myself, it would help me to get a drink of water,” she said.

The price of that independence is more than $65,000.

Like everything these days, the cost continues to increase.

The makers of the arm have tried to help her find ways to cut costs and raise the money, but the tool has been out of reach for Karole since late 2018.

So, she started an online fundraiser and she's stayed driven.

“Maybe bits and pieces I'll get it, but I really think I will,” she said optimistically.

For Karole, it’s not if — but when she gets the arm.

She already has plans for the first thing she'll do with it.

"Actually, I want to hug my daughter. I really want to hug her,” said Karole.