By Rich Manley
When Dr Armie Harper shared his frustration about a growing blindness epidemic in pre-term babies in Mexico, I wanted to hear more. He explained the inability for hospitals in developing countries to properly regulate oxygen to babies. Too much oxygen could not only blind them, but trigger multiple life altering diseases. “Too much Oxygen?” That statement was baffling. Naively I “raised” my hand and said, “I think we can help you solve this.”
I called my friend Todd Gibson who had just left an EdTech company in Hong Kong where he was head of product. Todd grew up in Papua New Guinea, so he had unique insight into developing world challenges. We dove in. Two weeks of research turned into two years. The “too much oxygen” problem was huge and complex. Every year 15 million pre-term babies are at risk of oxygen toxicity. Unregulated oxygen can result in immediate and long-term health problems. In western countries this problem is solved with oxygen blenders, but these blenders won’t work in over 90% of low-income hospitals.
Our first trip with Armie to hospitals in Mexico shattered our hearts and gave us unrelenting determination to fix this. We saw babies and parents with lives that would be permanently changed by serious health complications. This was one of the worst cases of medical injustice that no one knew about.
Unprecedented new medical devices are needed that are designed for and with developing world clinicians. These devices have to be cheaper, maintenance-free and simple. Strangely, achieving simplicity is often more complex, so these devices must be scientifically more advanced than current devices.
There are 15 millions babies every year waiting for us to help them. They have no voice so we must give them ours. Our team of doctors, clinicians, engineers and advocates speak loudly through persistent innovation and unyielding passion. From Israel, a country with a dream to heal the world, healing is on it’s way for millions of babies.
Save the sight and protect the lives of the most vulnerable babies in the world. Some images from the field.