'I Had No Hand, Then One Day I Received a Surprising Offer'

When I was born, my right hand wasn't fully formed, but the doctors didn't know why, and I struggled a lot when growing up. My dad separated from my mom when I was younger, and she takes care of me and my three siblings.

She had gotten me ready for school every day up until I was 12 years old. In fact, I didn't know how to tie my shoes until I had tried it in around 2020. After some practice, I learned how to tie my shoes using one hand, which is very cool.

Over the years, I got used to not having a functioning right hand; it became normal for me. I did day-to-day things like carrying a water bottle using my right elbow. It was cool to know that I could use my other body parts to do tasks.

Being bullied for my differences at my old school

A lot of people remember me from my old elementary and middle schools as the guy who had no hand. I didn't feel great about myself during those years because I was different from all of the other students. I'm 15 years old and up until November 2022, I had always hidden my hand.

Sergio Peralta Has a Synthetic Hand
Teacher Jeff Wilkins pictured with Sergio Peralta. Kelly Flood

When I got bullied at my old school, the bullies would always compare me to them and make me feel like I am less of a person because of my right hand. They often used it against me.

At my old elementary school, I always walked around in the cafeteria to get lunch and there was one child who had continuously pointed at my right hand and laughed. I had felt really hurt, so I told my mom about what had happened. She was really mad and she came down to the school the next day to defend me. That kid hasn't bullied me since.

Over time, I had learned to ignore people's mean comments and I still formed a good connection with a few people in middle school and I made some good friends.

An unexpected surprise in high school

High school was different for me. I had noticed a big change; I realized that people are more mature and they don't tend to bully others for no reason. That was a relief for me. It felt good to know that people weren't trying to knock me down or lower my self-confidence because of my hand.

In 2022, I decided to complete my sophomore year at Hendersonville High School in Tennessee. I had joined a computer class in 2022 and it was then that my teacher saw me using my left hand to click on a mouse. He had asked me questions about my right hand because he was very curious. He had then offered to build me a synthetic hand. I was surprised, I never expected it.

That day, he introduced me to four students who were in eleventh and twelfth grade. They were all very nice and enthusiastic. They had also asked me if I wanted to help them build it, and I said yes because I was just very delighted, I couldn't refuse it!

I have always been interested in building and creating cool and useful things, I had also joined a class called Principles of Engineering, which was run by the same teacher. It was very cool because there were robots and lots of computer software for us to use. We could also build objects in 3D, which is how these older students were able to make a prosthetic hand for me.

Sergio Peralta Has a Synthetic Hand
The students at Hendersonville High School (from left to right): Matthew Jackson, Sergio Peralta, Leslie Jaramillo and Ella Holtermann. Kelly Flood

Testing out the prosthetic hand

The prosthetic hand took three to four weeks to make. After the first week, the students tested a prototype on me. It was exciting to see it for the first time. I suggested that the thumb be replaced, as it was rigid compared to the other fingers. I also suggested that they add padding inside the prosthetic hand, as it was uncomfortable for my limb to be inserted into it at first.

A few weeks later, when I was in my engineering class, my teacher showed me the finished prosthetic hand. As he was adjusting it, I felt very happy. It looked cool and robotic, and it was grey and blue. We then tested weather I was able to grip objects with it. The students threw a ball at me and I shockingly caught it with the prosthetic hand; the whole class was amazed. My teacher was so happy that the hand worked. It was exciting for him to see me catch a ball for first time in 15 years.

When I had arrived home that evening, my mum was really delighted when she had seen it. She became very excited and she kept shaking my prosthetic hand. She then recorded me drinking a glass of water with the prosthetic hand and sent the recording to my dad.

Sergio Peralta Has a Synthetic Hand
Leslie Jaramillo (pictured) working on Sergio Peralta's synthetic hand. Kelly Flood

So far, I can only open and close the prosthetic hand. I can't move the fingers individually, but I can still hold things.

Since joining the school, I've made a lot of friends, which is good, because I don't have to worry about being bullied anymore. I love that I get to study and meet other people and have fun. I've become good friends with the students who had built my prosthetic hand, and it just makes me want to do the same for other people. My passion for creating and developing things has grown.

Sergio Peralta is a student at Hendersonville High School. You can find out more about the school, here.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Newsweek associate editor, Carine Harb.

Do you have a unique experience or personal story to share? Email the My Turn team at myturn@newsweek.com