Car Mechanic Invents Device to Ease Difficult Childbirths
Inspired by a trick to extract a lost cork from a wine bottle, a car mechanic dreams up a childbirth device to deliver babies during prolonged second stage labor.
Odon Device, Argentina
Prolonged second stage labor can cause a host of complications for mother and child, including maternal hemorrhaging and fetal asphyxiation. Delivery options in these situations include a caesarean section or normal vagina birth by using forceps and vacuum extractors.
The trouble with forceps is that in less skilled hands these large, round pliers can cause cuts, bruises hemorrhaging and crushing of the baby’s head. The problem is more acute in some parts of the developing world where resources are fewer and prolonged and difficult labor is a major cause of death in women.
So, can technology help? According to Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the technology behind some of the simple tools used for assisted delivery has moved very little since forceps were introduced centuries ago. Until, that is, Argentinian mechanic Jorge Odón had a brainwave.
From Parlor Trick to Life-Saving Innovation
The idea for a new assisted delivery device came to him in a dream after watching a YouTube video of how to remove a cork trapped inside an empty bottle without breaking the bottle.
It is done by rolling up a plastic bag and pushing it inside the glass vessel, leaving the handles hanging over the neck. Then the bottle is tipped so that the cork falls next to the plastic bag. Inflating the bag with breath ‘captures’ the cork and as the bag is pulled out the cork comes with it.
Odón realized that a similar approach could be used to deliver babies safely.
The development of this simple tool is a perfect illustration of open innovation, of how insights can come from a seemingly unrelated field.
Odón set about building a prototype in his kitchen. This involved a fabric bag, a glass jar for the womb and his daughter’s doll. He patented the idea, approached an obstetrician who saw its potential to save millions of lives, and together they continued to develop the innovation.
The obstetrical tool has the backing of WHO officials, who entered it into a competition called Saving Lives at Birth, which it won. Odón's prize was a grant of $250,000 to conduct proof of concept trials.
New Medical Invention
The Odon device is a low-cost tool that is inserted into the birth canal under the baby's chin. Air is pumped in to inflate the bag gently around the baby's head and then it is pulled out, bringing the baby with it. There is no chance of the baby suffocating, because being in the womb, it is not yet drawing breath.
At the time of writing this article in October 2015, the invention is being tested in Argentina and rural South Africa.
If all goes well, the Odon device will be on the market in the very near future.
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