Stories about: technology and innovation

Sweet Care-A-Line

Kezia Fitzgerald told us her story last year, when she was finishing treatment Hodgkin lymphoma and her daughter Saoirse was battling neuroblastoma. Sadly, Saoirse lost her fight last winter. Losing her inspired Kezia and husband Mike to do something to help all cancer patients. (A version of this story originally ran on Vector, Boston Children’s Hospital’s science and innovation blog.)

Saoirse Fitzgerald taking a walk wearing her CareAline wrap. The wrap, designed by her mother, helped keep her central line secure

Over the last year and a half I’ve written 70-plus stories about innovations by doctors, nurses and other staff at Boston Children’s Hospital. I haven’t yet written a story about a patient innovation. But that doesn’t mean that patients and their families aren’t out there innovating.

Case in point: Kezia Fitzgerald saw pretty quickly that there was a problem she might be able to fix. Her daughter Saoirse (pronounced Seer-sha), who had been diagnosed with neuroblastoma, had just had a PICC line put into her arm at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center to infuse drugs and fluids. Within a day, Saoirse was tugging at the line, trying to pull off the tape that was keeping it in place. “It was irritating her skin pretty badly,” Kezia says. “She was really uncomfortable.”

Kezia, herself at the time fighting Hodgkin lymphoma (read the family’s story) wanted to make her daughter as comfortable as she could. “I pulled out my sewing machine and some cotton fabric,” Kezia recalls, “and made this little sleeve with a pocket that I thought could hold the line in place without having to tape it to her skin.”

That, in a nutshell, is the origin story of the CareAline, which Kezia and her husband Mike are developing into a product that they hope will make life a little easier for patients young and old with cancer and other chronic illnesses.

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Boston Children’s research in the news

image: flickr /christopher.woo

Boston Children’s Hospital made the headlines this week, when major news outlets across the globe reported on new studies from many of our researchers.

We’re well known for our world-class care and innovative approach to pediatrics, but did you know we also have a long, distinguished tradition in clinical research? And on more than one occasion that research has advanced not just pediatric care, but all of medicine.

Here’s a quick recap of some of our recent research coverage:

David Ludwig, MD, PhD

Researchers Cara Ebbeling, PhD, and David Ludwig, MD, PhD, of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospitalthis week published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggesting that all calories aren’t created equal. The study looked at three diets (low-fat, low-carb and low-glycemic) in order to see which helped participants keep pounds off after losing weight. Even though all three diets consisted of the same amount of calories, the low-glycemic diet came out on top.

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Our patients’ stories: using medical robots at home

When you hear the word robot, which image comes to mind first?

Those of us raised on Star Wars and Buck Rogers are likely to identify with the first image, but physically speaking, the robots of today have more in common with your computer and microwave than a Hollywood android.

They may look less interesting than your favorite sci-fi film characters, but modern medical robots are still quite helpful. So much so that the Boston Globe recently ran a story about a pilot project that placed a medical robot created by VGo Communications in the home of the Tally family, whose 2 year-old son Aidan is recovering from surgery he received at Children’s Hospital Boston last month to treat his urinary reflux .

The VGo robot’s main function is videoconferencing, which connects the Ashland-based family to their doctors and nurses here in Boston. Operated by remote control from Children’s, the VGo robot lets medical professionals see and communicate with Aidan’s parents, take video and close-up photos of Aidan’s scars for medical review and figure out if the prescribed medication is doing its job.

And because videoconferencing appointments are easier to coordinate than hospital visits, the Tally family was able to check in with Aidan’s care team every three days, instead of waiting for their first post surgical appointment, scheduled for six weeks after his surgery.

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Health headlines: August 21

Other children’s health stories we’ve been reading:

  • Vice President Joe Biden announced that nearly $1.2 billion in grants will go towards helping hospitals and doctors utilize electronic health records. The grants, funded by the $787 billion economic stimulus plan, will be available on October 1.
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