Car Mechanic invents safety device to assist with births

A car mechanic has come up with a revolutionary device that could help to assist with difficult births. Jorge Odón says that he had the idea for his safety device in a dream, shortly after he watched a video on YouTube on extracting a lost cork from a wine bottle. The 59 year-old car mechanic from Argentina believes that his subconscious mind made the connection between the action of the removal of the cork, and helping a baby stuck in the birth canal. He was so excited about his idea that he woke his wife up at 4 a.m. to tell her, but she just said that he was crazy and should go back to sleep.

© Diego Giudice for The New York Times

Luckily Mr. Odón went onto develop a prototype, using his daughter’s doll to replicate the trapped baby and a glass jar for a womb. Even his wife got involved by making a sleeve sewn onto a fabric bag. And to the couple’s delight, the contraption has now received the backing of the World Health Organisation, with an US medical company licensing the product in readiness for manufacture.

Called the Odón Device, the way it works is by placing a plastic bag inside the lubricated plastic sleeve around the head of the baby, then inflating it, which allows a soft grip to be able to pull the bag gently until the baby appears. Current ways of extracting a baby include forceps (a type of medical pliers) or suction caps, which are attached to the baby’s head. Any of these devices, if used incorrectly, can result in damage to the baby.

Despite medical advances in technology, around 10% of the 137 million births can still have serious complications, which can lead to stillbirth or women dying in childbirth. This device therefore has the potential to save babies and new mothers.

© Diego Giudice for The New York Times

Dr. Mario Merialdi, the W.H.O.’s chief coordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health said: “This is very exciting. This critical moment of life is one in which there’s been very little advancement for years.” Approximately 5.6 million babies are stillborn or die quickly afterwards, and about 260,000 women die in childbirth. And in poorer countries, if the baby is not delivered, there is little medical staff can do to assist the mother.

The company that will manufacture the device is Becton, Dickinson and Company, or BD, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., and the CEO – Gary M. Cohen said: “My first reaction, as soon as I saw it, was positive. Many inventions get to the prototype stage, but that’s maybe 15 percent of what needs to be done,” he added: “There’s finalizing the design for manufacture, quality control, the regulatory work and clinical studies. Absent that, they don’t see the light of day.”

The Odón Device has been tested on 30 Argentine women, who were in hospital to deliver their babies, had given birth before and were experiencing a normal labor. The W.H.O. will now conduct tests on 100 more women in normal labor in China, India and South Africa, and then on 170 women in obstructed labor.

The original prototype has been further developed, with polyethylene used instead of his wife’s bag, and a plastic uterus replacing the jar. Mr. Odón has continued to refine the device, and each change has been patented, so that eventually he may start to receive royalties. There is no indication as to how much these devices will cost, once production has started, but experts think they should not cost any more than $50 each. But although the company will make a profit from selling them, they are expected to charge less in poorer countries.

Image – © Diego Giudice for The New York Times

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