In a way, York fifth grader AC Lingerfelt has 10 fingers again, thanks to some determined teachers.
Lingerfelt, who attends Hickory Grove-Sharon Elementary School, lost a portion of her finger in May in an accident with a four-wheeler winch. Lingerfelt, 11, was helping with yard work on her four-wheeler when her finger was accidentally sucked into the machine.
After the accident, Lingerfelt struggled to tie her shoes and throw a softball. She had a hard time playing piano and taking online tests at school. Her teacher and peers helped her.
“It was really hard,” Lingerfelt said. “I thought that some people would make fun of me, and they would pick on me about it, but when I came back to school everybody thought it was really cool.”
Lingerfelt jokingly asked Ryan Clemence, a fourth-grade science teacher at the York, South Carolina, school who has access to the 3D printers there if he could make her a new finger.
Clemence and third-grade teacher Rachael Shriver committed to the challenge.
“I knew we could do it because of the professional development that we took,” Clemence said.
Clemence and Shriver were trained over the summer on the use of 3D printers in the classroom, he said. The teachers use the printers as part of their curriculum, Shriver said. Her students have printed keychains, ornaments and materials for lessons.
Over winter break, Clemence researched how to 3D print a prosthetic finger.
“I have this 3-D printer; why not use it for something to help change someone’s life and give her back the opportunity to do some of the things she had lost with the accident?” Shriver said.
She said: “Her face just lit up when she saw it, and that was the best part.”
On Monday, the pair presented Lingerfelt with a fully-functioning prosthetic finger, printed at the school. The finger is able to bend and react to Lingerfelt’s movements.
“It was really cool,” Lingerfelt said. “I didn’t know that I could be able to bend it. I was really excited.”
Clemence and Shriver used funding raised by local churches for student needs to purchase the materials for the prosthetic, at a cost of about $100, Clemence said.
“The entire staff at Hickory Grove Sharon Elementary is amazing,” Stephanie Lingerfelt, AC’s mom, wrote in a public post on Facebook.
Stephanie Lingerfelt continued: “For teachers to take the time to do something like this for her, teachers that are not even her actual teachers, when they already have a lot of responsibility every single day, seriously amazes me. Since her accident, she has relearned a lot of what she was able to do before. But to have the opportunity and the ability to do things the way she has always done them is a gift.”
AC Lingerfelt said she can now resume her love of playing piano, write better in school and type easily again. She also rides horses, and is working to play softball again.
“The night that I got it, I started playing piano, and I could do it,” she said. “I didn’t know you could 3D print stuff like this until the day I came into Mr. Clemence’s classroom.”
Lingerfelt said she is grateful for the teachers’ effort.
“I was so thankful for them doing this,” she said. “I was so happy that there is people out there that think about me this way and that they would do this for me. I’m so happy that now I have 10 fingers and I can do a lot of stuff.”