Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Promise of the Internet

For many years I have been excited about what the Internet will bring via the interconnection of the planet. YouTube alone is an amazing force for world peace, I think (see this blog post). With the seemingly universal love of cute cat videos, people all around the world find themselves watching a video and realizing an unknown language is being spoken in the background. This cat lives in another country, maybe even a country that is perceived as an enemy, and the owner plays with the cat in the exact same way the viewer does. Or they love their baby the same way the foreigner in the cute baby video does. By watching ordinary people do ordinary things we learn that all human beings are more alike than different.

Today I read about something extraordinary that will help save countless mothers and babies during childbirth, and it was inspired by a YouTube video.

Jorge Odón, an auto mechanic in Argentina, watched a video about extracting a "lost" cork from a wine bottle with some friends. That night he had a dream that this same principle could work extracting a baby from a mother's vagina during difficult births. 
The next morning he rigged up a crude prototype using a large glass bottle and one of his daughter's dolls. He showed it to an obstetrician, who helped him obtain more realistic materials for future prototypes, and the World Health Organization is now conducting a test in a few countries around the world. 
A medical devices company has signed on to make the devices and they should cost less than $50 to make, meaning the life-saving device will be available in poor countries.
“This is very exciting,” said Dr. Mario Merialdi, the W.H.O.’s chief coordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health and an early champion of the Odón Device. “This critical moment of life is one in which there’s been very little advancement for years.”
In wealthy countries, fetal distress results in a rush to the operating room. In poor, rural clinics, Dr. Merialdi said, “if the baby doesn’t come out, the woman is on her own." The current options in those cases are forceps — large, rounded pliers — or suction cups attached to the baby’s scalp. In untrained hands, either can cause hemorrhages, crush the baby’s head or twist its spine. 
"This problem needed someone like Jorge,” Dr. Merialdi said. “An obstetrician would have tried to improve the forceps or the vacuum extractor, but obstructed labor needed a mechanic. And 10 years ago, this would not have been possible. Without YouTube, he never would have seen the video.”
This is just the beginning...

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