SAN DIEGO–San Diego native Karolyn Smith is a survivor. An Iraq war veteran and U.S. Army machine gunner, she suffered spine and brain injuries from a roadside bomb in 2005.
After years of surgeries and therapies, Karolyn suffered from PTSD but wanted to learn to cope with her pain and trauma without medication. To that end, she adopted a kitten with three legs.
When Smith met Sophia she thought, “Who better to raise a disabled kitten than a disabled veteran?” Sophia was born with the umbilical cord around her hind leg that damaged its development, requiring amputation. Inspired by her work with military veteran amputees, Smith was determined to help her new kitten.
A self-styled “vetrepreneur,” she decided to see if a prosthetic leg could be designed that would make Sophia’s life easier. Connecting with San Diego-based design lab Fab Lab, they invented the prototype of a prosthesis that could be manufactured on a 3D printer.
Three years and three prototypes later, Smith has become an avid inventor, constantly pushing to create the ideal prosthetic. She will be presenting her invention, and telling her story, at the upcoming Maker Faire San Diego in Balboa Park October 7 to 8, a hands-on celebration of technology, arts, crafts, science, and the Do-It-Yourself mindset.
Smith continues to push to make her furry friend’s life as comfortable as possible. Self-funded, she hopes Maker Faire San Diego will help raise awareness and backing for her cause. She has published a children’s book to both help raise money and to educate kids about amputation. “Sophia, The Bionic Cat” was published in 2016. Animal Planet is currently airing a feature on Smith and Sophia on “My Cat From Hell” with Jackson Galaxy, and Smith is in the process of writing a screen play to tell the story of how technology has helped her and Sophia live better, richer lives as an inspiration to kids—the world’s future inventors.
Smith has been honored locally as the 71st Assembly District’s 2014 Veteran of the Year for the sacrifices she has made for her country, and her meaningful, long-time work with veteran’s groups. San Diegans can hear her story firsthand and meet Karolyn in person October 7 and 8 at Maker Faire San Diego at Balboa Park. Visit http://sandiego.makerfaire.com/tickets.