Monday, May 21, 2007

First Aid First

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were suddenly required to remember the CPR you learned in high school health class? What if the guy in the cubicle next to you suddenly collapsed from a heart attack? After you yell to someone to call 911, would you know how to be his "artificial heart" until the paramedics arrive? I have some vague recollection, and could probably get my hands in the right position, but would be pretty shaky on the details, like how hard to push down, and how often. Now, I could tell you the numbers right now, because I just read an article on the subject at Gizmag (100 beats per minute, and about four to five centimeters of compression), but that article also stated that most people don't retain the correct information for long after they have learned it. Gizmag says, "Only 6 months after learning life-saving CPR techniques, around 60 percent of first aiders - including doctors and nurses - forget how to do it correctly." Only six months. Wow. That makes the chances that I remember the details from sophomore health back in '79 accurately pretty darn remote.

Now, I probably ought to go take a CPR refresher course, but considering that the info might only last another six months before finding the sieve holes in my brain, it would be awfully nice if there were another option--something that might make all the potential heart attack victims in my vicinity a little safer. In fact, wouldn't it be great if people all over the globe (not just near me), in houses, stores, airplanes, office cubicles, and every other place we humans tend to inhabit, could be made just a little safer from what the World Health Organization says is the number one killer of both men and women around the world? I have a friend who recently survived a heart "episode" and it's made me much more aware of how important it is that people know what to do, and that I really don't. I'm sure most of us are getting more aware as we age that we don't have the answers for every emergency, while at the same time we are getting ever more likely to experience them. Some folks in Canada, though, have moved beyond awareness and onto solutions. They've come up with a gadget to add to the standard first aid kit that could save a lot of lives. It's not a magic pill, or portable defibrillator, but a glove:

The Canadian CPR Glove acts as a quick on-the-job refresher course, making sure the first aider administers the correct frequency and depth of chest compression. It's a simple and cheap device that has real potential to save lives if included in a first aid kit.

The black, one-size-fits-all CPR Glove features a series of sensors and chips that measure the frequency and depth of compressions being administered during CPR and outputs the data to a digital display.

How's that for an elegant solution to the memory problem? It's a small item, that's easy to store with the other aid supplies, yet it could make such a difference if it's ever needed. Gizmag says that in a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, fifty-nine percent of the time people didn't do enough compressions per minute to help the patient, and that nearly forty percent of the time the compressions weren't deep enough. Put the CPR Glove on the hand that's pushing on the victim's chest, however, and the glove itself will tell you if you're doing it right. Pretty slick, don't you think?

So who were the Smart People who came up with this life-saving notion? Students:

"We were brainstorming about what we could create for our final-year design project that would provide a real contribution," said inventor Corey Centen, a fourth-year student in electrical and biomedical engineering at McMaster. "We came across this study and recognized the importance of finding a solution."

Centen and classmate Nilesh Patel started working on the concept in September 2006 and developed a number of prototypes, bringing the size of components down each time. They wrote the programs and hand-fabricated the button-size computer chips that operate the glove. They even designed the pattern for the glove but turned to a professional seamstress to recommend fabric and stitch the glove together.

"We see the glove being available as part of any standard first-aid package," explains Patel, also a fourth-year electrical and biomedical engineering student at McMaster. "It is also ideal for CPR training and refresher courses. It would be easy to afford since the components are readily available and relatively inexpensive."

Cool, huh? I want one.