“Brianna has always been so strong-willed,” says Dawn, Brianna’s mom. “When she became interested in archery, her dad made special attachments for her bow and arrow, and now she never stops practicing. She never gives up, no matter how hard it gets.”
Facing adversity, Brianna persevered, but always felt insecure about her arm. “I’ve always been very athletic, but I stopped doing a lot of activities and sports because I got really self-conscious,” says Brianna, adding that she started having trouble at school and her grades suffered because of it.
Something needed to change. So Brianna began doing research. She read articles about her condition and found videos of young women with prosthetics, who were able to do extraordinary things—some gymnasts, archers and even Olympic athletes. Inspired by their stories, Brianna realized something like this could change her life. That’s when she decided she wanted a bionic arm—a prosthetic that can be controlled by your mind.
“When she approached us about it, we were terrified,” says Dan. “Our biggest fear was that once you do it, you can’t take it back.” But they understood how much Brianna wanted a better life for herself, and began their search for the right doctor. After being evaluated by other orthopedic specialists, the Smith family chose Cohen Children’s Medical Center at Northwell Health.
“We got an appointment with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Terry Amaral, and we immediately noticed a difference in the level of care,” explains Dawn. “He sat Brianna down and had a real conversation with her. She was able to open up after being shut down so many times.” After speaking with Dr. Amaral and learning more about the bionic prosthesis, Brianna was confident it was what she wanted. She was ready.
The first step was presurgical testing, which included vital checks and blood work. She also met with a psychiatrist and therapists from BeBionic, the prosthetic company that custom-built her new arm. The entire procedure took approximately two hours. Brianna stayed at Cohen Children’s Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for two days, where she was cared for and monitored by physicians, nurses and clinical staff.