By James Lefebvre | 3D Printing Industry
e-NABLE is no stranger when it comes to making the news. They’ve been helping people around the world by providing designs for 3D printed prosthetic hands, and connecting those in need with Makers, for the past couple years. Recently, e-NABLE volunteer Dante Vartosis, inspired by Genesis Foundation grants, decided to gauge the public interest in starting a humanitarian venture for providing prosthetics to those in need located around the world.
Members of the community were quick to express interest, and soon they all met with Dr. Albert Chi at Johns Hopkins University, who has extensive experience with working at Haitian prosthesis clinics. Naturally, Dr. Chi envisioned applying e-NABLE’s widely successful “hand-a-thon” model to Haiti.
Initially, the team would bring pre-made hand components with them, and they’d work on organizing the people and resources necessary to start producing the prosthetics in Haiti. Members of Haiti Communitere, a native makerspace and startup launchpad that houses 3D printing space iLab, had the skills needed to manufacture the hands. As a result, the team looked to train them in order to start local production and repair of the prosthetic hands.
In order to gain more capital and expertise for their endeavor, the e-NABLE team applied to the OneSmart Challenge put on by the Oxbridge Biotech Roundup. 322 teams applied, and they’ve been fortunate to be selected as one of 35 finalists. As a result, a mentor from the challenge has joined their group to help design the business plan for operations in Haiti.
Vartosis, and team member Mohit Chaudhary, left for their first trip to Haiti with intentions to meet with those who currently work with prosthesis patients, and to better understand the current medical and economic situation in the recovering nation. Once in Haiti, the first stop was at Hospital Albert Schweitzer. They met with Cornelia Kohler, a prosthetist who was volunteering with Medi-For-Help, and introduced her to the “Raptor” model prosthetic hand. Soon they trained her top technician on the hand’s assembly procedure, and were ready to hit the ground running.
The next day brought a presentation in front of the hospital’s top staff of doctors and administrators. As it turns out, they believe the need for full arm and hand prosthesis to be greater than the need for only hands. Luckily this should be no problem for e-NABLE’s flexible maker supply chain.
While touring the infant ward of the hospital, Dante learned that the hospital doesn’t have the proper equipment needed to deal with premature infants that have infant respiratory distress syndrome. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine is used when an infant is diagnosed with this syndrome, but a special ventilator mask is needed in order to work with the small patients. 3D printing, then, could help save lives through the creation of a scaled down ventilator mask.
The team left feeling hopeful. Overall, the response they received from patients, doctors, and makers was one of great excitement for the 3D printed prosthesis. Since their trip, the team has been communicating with the doctors they met, and brainstorming ideas for design modifications, procedures for getting prostheses to the patients, and conducting virtual training workshops for hand-assembly. Once the program is established, they hope to use it as a model that can be applied for other countries in need.
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