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Local Woman Uses Robotic Arms Using Only Her Brain

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

RickDayton Rick Dayton
Rick Dayton joined KDKA in September 2009 as a morning news anchor. ...
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CBS Pittsburgh (con't)

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — She wanted to be known for the words she wrote.

Instead, a South Hills woman is known within the medical community for something she can do, without ever saying a word.

“I wanted to be known for the great mystery parties I wrote,” author and quadriplegic Jan Scheuermann said. “I wanted to write books for them and be known as a great author. I didn’t want to be known for being sick and having a good attitude, so I resented being called an inspiration.”

This mother of two grew up in the St. Elizabeth Parish in the South Hills. Seventeen years ago, Scheuermann was diagnosed with spino-cerebellar degeneration — and became a quadriplegic.

In December, 60 minutes told the world the story of how this 51-year-old moves a multi-million dollar robotic arm via electronic sensors implanted in her brain by researchers at UPMC.

“You are more than the body you live in, and it just brought that home to me again and I just felt so powerful that I could do more than I thought because I am more than limbs that don’t work,” she said. “I am what’s in this brain. I am — pretend I am pointing to my brain right now I am pointing to my skull — I am up here.”

Scheuermann shared her story with the students at St. Elizabeth — the same Pleasant Hills school her children attended — and she’s not one bit shy talking about her faith.

“To me it’s like a super power,” Toby Small of West Mifflin said. “I wish everyone could do that.”

“I just thought it would be inspiring, but she gave me some advice to keep life going, not to take it for granted,” Brianna DeJames of Baldwin said.

“Kids will ask you anything,” Scheuermann said. “Adults are too polite, so that honesty is something I was looking forward to.”

Now, back to that talk of being an inspiration — these days, Scheuermann doesn’t mind a bit.

“If I inspire the kids to live more fully,” she said. “I am honored by that.”

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