Stone Oak girl invents mechanical hand device to help ALS patients, veterans

Jane Moody, 13, invented mechanical hand after being inspired by ALS patient

Jane Moody, an eighth grader at Lopez Middle School, is the creator behind an invention aimed at helping people with ALS.

SAN ANTONIO – Some people hear about others’ difficult situations and feel helpless. Others decide to be helpful. Jane Moody, 13, falls into the latter category.

Moody was 10-years-old when she learned that her father’s best friend, Joe Holt, had been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Coincidentally, one of her teachers had also given her an assignment around that time.

“I said, ‘I want you to be thinking about something that would help better the world,’” said Suzanne Horan.

Horan taught Moody at Wilderness Oak Elementary School. The assignment got Moody thinking.

“After about five or 10 minutes of brainstorming, I came up with a writing device for people with dexterity issues,” said Moody.

Moody’s invention could best be described as a mechanical hand, that allows users to maintain a grip on objects. She knew the device would be handy, because her father, Marshall Moody, often spoke about how his friend’s ALS diminished his ability to hold onto objects.

Jane and Marshall Moody (KSAT)

“Watching the deterioration...I was crushed,” said Marshall Moody.

ALS is a disease that gradually deteriorates motor function, making it difficult for patients to do things like write, or feed themselves.

“I wanted to help [Joe] because he still wanted to be able to work, and write letters to his family,” said Moody.

Karen Holt told KSAT her husband fought as long as he could.

“Almost three years through his journey, we watched him lose the ability to use his arms, hands, legs, and feet. Ultimately, he couldn’t swallow or speak,” she said.

Joe and Karen Holt (KSAT)

There’s no cure for ALS. Joe Holt passed away in December of 2019, long before Moody was able to reveal her final product. Although Moody wishes Holt was able to see the device now, she’s just as motivated to help others who can’t use their hands.

“I know he’s watching from heaven, and he’ll be able to see it through the whole way through up there,” said Moody.

“I think [Joe] would be so proud of Jane,” said Karen Holt.

Moody named the invention the “Joe Holt 2.0.” She continues to work on perfecting the device. So far, she’s secured two patents. She hopes that someday, injured veterans or ALS patients will be able to use it.

“It makes me really happy,” said Moody.

Joe Holt family (KSAT)

About the Author:

Stephania Jimenez is an anchor on The Nightbeat. She began her journalism career in 2006, after graduating from Syracuse University. She's anchored at NBC Philadelphia, KRIS in Corpus Christi, NBC Connecticut and KTSM in El Paso. Although born and raised in Brooklyn, Stephania considers Texas home. Stephania is bilingual! She speaks Spanish.