By Katherine Mike
What started out as a simple request on social media, turned into a life changing experience for six-year-old Anny Johnson in the Sierra Ranch ward, Queen Creek East Stake. Anny was getting ready for kindergarten last summer when she met Brandon Henrie, AKA Hank, from the Castlegate Ward also in the Queen Creek East Stake.
Anny was born missing all the bones in her three fingers with significantly shortened or missing bones in her thumb and pinky. It made simple tasks like writing and holding silverware with her right hand difficult. She was nervous to start kindergarten and didn’t want to be teased for having no fingers.
Anny’s mother Stacy had seen a video about a child whose father had created a plastic hand for his child from a 3D printer.
“When I saw that video, I knew I wanted one of those for Anny. Since they cost pennies on the dollar compared to traditional prosthetics, I knew I could afford one. I put the request on my Facebook page and a few hours later a friend I met at girl’s camp replied and said her husband had a 3D machine in their home. He said he would be happy to help.” Help was literally within walking distance.
Hank’s childhood on the farm taught him to improvise and create. “On the farm if it breaks you fix it. If you need it, there was no Home Depot or Pottery Barn to get things; you just made them.”
Those innovative skills came in handy later in life when he became interested in the sport of motocross. “When we go to the dunes, you are required to use a fiberglass flag mounted to the bike. I was less than excited with the options out there of mounting the flag, so I broke it down into pieces starting with what I didn’t like about the setups. I’d start solving each little piece till I came up with something that was better than everything I had ever used. I started a company called ZENXTEN hoping it could subsidize some of my extra-curricular activities.” That’s why he has a 3D machine in his home.
Hank’s process was mostly visual. He started with a rough sketch of Anny’s hand and arm. From there, he designed his first prototype. It was sized several times, and as Anny practiced with it, they figured out what worked and what didn’t, and then made modifications. The final product allows Anny to bend her hand at the wrist causing the fingers to close making a fist. She uses her own thumb and her pink pointer finger to grab smaller items. Learning to use her new hand has been slow, but Anny says, “it’s cool and the other kids think it’s awesome too. I’m not the girl with no fingers, I’m the girl with the pink robot hand.”
Additionally, Hank provided all the labor and supplies for free. “How could I not? If I were to guess at how much time, it wasn’t a lot, maybe ten to twenty hours of design and research….A year earlier, I would have had a rough go…that’s just how the Lord works. When the timing is right things just come together with faith and hard work.”
Hank is currently making a hand with a motor for a 14-year-old boy who heard about Hank through Facebook. He is also laying the foundation for a non-profit group to provide hands at no cost for children with limb differences. Hank adds, “There are options for more than just hands, we are only limited by our imagination.”