Haiti has been mired in a nightmarish humanitarian situation since January’s earthquake. Many, many Haitians are still without proper shelter, food or clean water as the nation faces its upcoming elections.
As with any disaster situation, one of the biggest problems with providing medical care (besides the woeful shortage of doctors) is the lack of electricity. In the period after the earthquake, surgeons from Harvard Med School used a new device designed by MIT engineering student Danielle Zurovcik to promote “negative wound pressure therapy” without electricity.
Negative wound pressure therapy is used in hospitals worldwide to help serious wounds heal faster — especially wounds that aren’t healing well on their own. It works in part by drawing excess fluid and dead cells from the wound, by improving blood flow, and by pulling the tissues together. It also reduces pain, and helps keep wounds clean in a dirty environment. With negative wound pressure therapy, patients can have bandages changed every three days instead of every day. All of these advantages are particularly important in a disaster zone.
The pump utilizes “an industrial-sized toilet plunger” and plastic tubing. Rather than the $3,600-$17,000 Reuters cited negative wound pressure pumps as costing, the devices cost $3.
Described at this weeks’ American College of Surgeons meeting, the pump was spawned when second-year Brigham & Women’s Hospital surgery resident Alexi Matousek asked an engineering class at MIT to invent such a pump in response to the humanitarian need. MIT student Danielle Zurovcik made the pump her master’s thesis. MIT News described Zurovcik’s work on the pump back in April, which Gizmag also picked up on.
The information on the results is far from complete, partially because in an environment like post-earthquake Haiti it’s impossible to compare the new pumps with traditional powered ones. But inventions like this are critical for bridging the disaster relief healthcare gap.
And if you’re concerned about Haitian aid, this article on Haitian-Truth.org provides interesting reading from a Haitian perspective.