PALMETTO — Sometimes someone comes along to remind us that we can achieve our dreams if we simply let nothing get in the way.
Robyn Lynn Kratenstein, 28, was born with a upper left arm and elbow but no forearm and hand to go with them.
But from age 5, when she found a way to stitch up her torn teddy bear, she decided she would be a doctor and nothing less.
On Sunday, she and 148 others in the 2010 Lakewood Ranch graduating class of Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine received their diplomas at the Manatee Convention Center.
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From Gaithersburg, Md., Kratenstein will start her career July 1 in the emergency room at Conemaugh Hospital in Johnstown, Pa.
While in high school, Kratenstein invented a now patented “Robyn” cup to hold a field hockey stick so she could play the sport, which she did at the varsity level for three years.
Using her left arm like a hand, she swims well, cuts her food, ties her laces and sutures patients, all with flawless dexterity.
Intubation, the process of inserting a breathing tube, is the only emergency room procedure that posed a challenge for her.
Unperturbed, she invented a device which she holds with her left arm to help her.
“She’s got a wonderful sense of humor,” said LECOM Assistant Dean Wayne A. Krueger.
“She never mentions her handicap. She never has asked for any help and we never have offered any. She is also caring, kind and compassionate.”
Children are often startled by her lack of a hand so, at work, she will wear a “Nemo” pin from the movie “Finding Nemo.”
Nemo was a fish born with a “little fin” that doesn’t impede him from taking off into the world and having all sorts of adventures.
“Kids immediately understand when they see the pin that I have a little arm like Nemo,” Kratenstein said. “It helps them feel more comfortable.”
For older patients who stare, she has a set of one-liners that break the ice.
The three main ones are: “Gator bit it off,” “Shark attack while surfing,” and “chainsaw mishap.”
She has nearly fingertip sensitivity in her left arm, which extends about 2 inches below the elbow.
She wore a prosthetic arm growing up and wasn’t afraid to beat her brother, Jonathan, with it.
“She hit hard,” Jonathan said with a wince Sunday, as he stood proudly with his newly minted doctor sister, their mother, their stepsister, Miranda Sampson, their step-father, Bill Sampson, and their aunt, Audrey Bloom.
“Robyn is one of a kind,” Cathy Sampson said. “ ‘Can’t’ isn’t in her vocabulary.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.