by Mindy Czech
Usually, when one thinks of modern day medicine, we picture expensive surgeries performed by doctors in a hospital, using equipment that costs as much as Tony Stark's nuclear powered jockstrap. But some of them, whether they were in an emergency situation or they were just a mad genius with an innovative mind, do the best they can with the things at hand.
A Car Mechanic Invents A Safer Birthing Device
Argentinian car mechanic Jorge Odon was watching a video on YouTube that showed how to get a cork out of an empty wine bottle by sticking a bag inside and inflating it. Odon sat on this for a few hours and then had a wacky idea: maybe we could do something like this for women who are in labor! After being dismissed by nearly everyone he knew, Odon brought his proposal to an obstetrician, who instead of running away screaming, told him this is actually something that may be feasible. So off to work Odon went.
His prototype used a cloth sleeve covered in vaseline, a glass jar as the uterus, one of his daughter’s dolls as the baby, and some inflatable bags. And wouldn’t you know it, he was able to extract the dolls with this crazy device. In fact, it worked so well, it ended up gaining the attention of the World Health Organization.
Pictured: An actual, real birth in progress.
Birthing injuries are quite common, with a high infant mortality rate in developing nations, and the injuries often happen when suction devices and forceps are introduced into the process. Forceps can puncture holes in the lining of the uterus and cause fractures to the baby's skull. Suction devices can injure the baby’s scalp ... and if you're not careful, suck its soul completely out of its body.
Odon’s marvel works by inserting a lubricated sleeve over the baby’s scalp and the device around its head. Once it’s in place, the plastic bag is inflated and the baby is safely lifted out of the uterus. It is still in the clinical trial phase but has already been tested on many women with great success. And it all came from the mind of a car mechanic who just watched a YouTube video on how to get a cork out of a wine bottle. We're pretty sure that in 2040, that will count as actual medical training.
2 Doctors On A 14 Hour Flight Surgically Drain A Lung, Using Whatever Was On Hand
In 1995, two physicians on a fourteen hour flight from Hong Kong to London heard the worst phrase any doctor can hear when hear when they’re at 35,000 feet: Is there a doctor onboard?
A passenger named Paula Dixon had gotten into a motorcycle accident on the way to the airport. She was treated at a local hospital for just her injured arm, despite the medical staff suspecting that she probably had two or three broken ribs.
It turns out that she totally did. In fact, one of those ribs had punctured her lung, and she was having a difficult time breathing. Doctors Tom Wong and Angus Wallace took a look and realized that the lung needed to be drained. Unfortunately, the onboard medical kit did not have the equipment necessary for the procedure. So they did what any medical MacGyver would do: they improvised.
They put a Band-Aid on it and told her to stop being a wuss.
They took a urinary catheter from the kit, stuck a straightened wire coat hanger through it and sterilized it with some Courvoisier ... probably because they didn't have any Jack Daniels on hand. Dr. Wallace made an incision with a scalpel from the kit, and Dr. Wong held the incision apart with forks. This entire grueling affair lasted ten minutes, and they didn’t even need to make an emergency landing.
Ms. Dixon actually felt well enough after a few hours to eat, while the doctors drank the remainder of the Courvoisier they’d been using as a disinfectant for their instruments. Because if you're going to be a medical badass, that's how you top it off.
A Nigerian Doctor Uses Low Tech Solutions For High Tech Problems
Imagine being a physician in rural Nigeria, just wanting to help your community when you lack things like, say, basic medical equipment. The late Dr. Oluyombo Awojobi decided to tackle this problem by saying, “Who needs thas crap, anyway?” and just straight-up built his own.
Take, for example, a hematocrit centrifuge, which is used to determine the amount of red blood cells floating around in your big ol' dumb body. Dr. Oluyombo built one using the drivetrain and rear wheel of a bicycle. It revolves at 5400 RPM, and is so efficient that it measures the blood cells in about five minutes.
"Just gonna run a few tests, and- Hey, where are you going?!"
But that’s not all. He also built an operating table that lifts and tilts using the hydraulic jack from a car, making it completely practical for anyone who needs to perform surgery ... or for anyone who just wants to lie on it and yell, "WHEEEEE!"
Since supplies in rural Nigeria are quite lacking, he used candle wax to seal vials containing blood instead of plasticine. The piont is, using those low tech solutions to solve high tech problems was his thing. Dr. Oluyombo’s inventions were so fantastic that he ended up mentoring mechanical engineering students from MIT before he passed away.
A Doctor Makes Legitimate Medical Equipment Out Of Toys And Dollar Store Items
José Gómez-Márquez has been tinkering with things his whole life. But due to a brush with death at a very young age, he decided to put his skills to use for the good of humanity. Gómez-Márquez first built a nebulizer using some regular tubing, a $10 filter, and a bike pump for power. He did this for MIT’s IDEAS competition, and won the top prize.
He entered the competition again and was tasked with finding a way to treat tuberculosis effectively. You need to take the medication to recover from tuberculosis every day for six months in order for it to work, but people will frequently stop taking it when they feel better. That results in a relapse. In developing nations, NGOs will typically send in healthcare workers to make sure they’re keeping up with their treatment, but non-compliance is high. Because no matter where you live, all adults turn into children when medicine is involved.
Which is good, since some of his equipment is literally made out of toys.
Gómez-Márquez found out that the medication turned people’s urine and sweat red, so his solution was to find a chemical that reacts with the urine and turns it blue, so they could remotely check patients' compliance. Basically, they would urinate on a strip of paper, and numbers would appear. But only people who are actually taking the medication would have the correct numbers.
Here's where it gets awesome. His proposal was to have those people text in those numbers, and a database would give the complying patients free cell phone minutes. This pissed off the NGO who was sponsoring the competition, as it essentially put their people out of work. But it again wowed the judges, and he won a second time.
Gómez-Márquez now has his own space at MIT, where he’s in charge of the Little Devices Lab. It’s a team that basically makes low-tech medical supplies out of toys, dollar store items, and whatever they can think of. He and his team have made tons of awesome things, including an IV alarm made out of a chip clip, paper clips and a toy gun. They aim to help healthcare workers around the world develop strategies in making instruments with the things that are available to them, rather than just going without.
A Robotic Surgeon MacGyvers Together A Nebulizer On A Flight
Robotic surgeon Dr. Khurshid Guru answered a call to action while onboard a transatlantic flight from Spain to the US in September of 2015. An asthmatic toddler with a cold was having a problems breathing. His oxygen level was at 87%, and his parents packed his medication in their checked luggage. Because toddlers don’t understand basic things like “how to use an inhaler”, they couldn’t simply just use the inhaler in the medical kit onboard. So Dr. Guru did his best Richard Dean Anderson and decided to jerry-rig a nebulizer.
Dr. Guru gathered an oxygen tank, the inhaler, an empty water bottle, a paper cup and some tubing. He chopped the end off of the water bottle with a scalpel from the medical kit. Then he fed the tubing through the bottle. He taped that to the oxygen tank and cut a hole in the side of the bottle for the inhaler to fit in. Now, the medication and oxygen could be administered effectively. Finally, he cut a hole in the end of a cup and placed it on the water bottle, so the fine mist of medication and oxygen could be administered to the kid.
It totally worked. After two doses of the medication from the makeshift nebulizer, the kid’s oxygen levels were back above 90%, he had calmed down and just wanted to watch some TV. The doctor never even learned the name of the kid and was left with a whole pile of paperwork. But hey, he was just happy to save that boy’s life, and the plane didn’t even need to be diverted. Let this be a lesson to all of us: don’t leave your life-saving asthma medication in your checked luggage unless you’re on a flight with a robotic surgeon.
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