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B.C. researcher says device mimics parent’s touch to help babies cope with pain

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  • VANCOUVER — Researchers in British Columbia have designed a “robot” that helps reduce pain for premature babies by simulating skin-to-skin contact with a parent who may not be available during around-the-clock procedures in a neonatal intensive care unit.

    Lead inventor and occupational therapist Liisa Holsti said the Calmer device is a rectangular platform that replaces a mattress inside an incubator and is programmed with information on a parent’s heartbeat and breathing motion.

    The robotic part of Calmer is that the platform rises up and down to mimic breathing, and a heartbeat sound is audible through a microphone outside the device, said Holsti, adding a pad on top resembles a skin-like surface.

    The aim is to help babies cope with pain through touch instead of medication as much as possible while they’re exposed to multiple procedures, such as the drawing of blood, which can be done multiple times a day over several months.

    A randomized clinical trial involving 49 infants born prematurely between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy at BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre concluded Calmer provides similar benefits to human touch in reducing pain when the babies had their blood drawn.

    The findings of the study, completed between October 2014 and February 2018, were published this week in the journal Pain Reports.

    A parent’s or caregiver’s touch is the most healing and the Calmer isn’t intended to replace that, said Holsti, the Canada research chair in neonatal health and development. She worked with four other researchers on the project that involved a prototype built by engineering students at the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

    “We purposely did not design it to look anything like a human being,” she said, adding her work since 1985 in neonatal intensive care units, where she taught parents how to support their babies at home after leaving the hospital, sparked an interest in assessing infant pain and trying to relieve it.

    “We have about 30,000 babies born prematurely in Canada alone every year so my hope would be that we would be helping all of those babies with Calmer.”

    Holsti said nurses often provide so-called hand hugging by placing their hands around an infant’s head, arms and legs in a curled position during blood collection, but the study suggests the device would save almost half a million dollars in staffing costs every year at just the neonatal intensive care unit where the study was done.

    Lauren Mathany, whose twin daughters Hazel and Isla were born 24 weeks into her pregnancy last April and weighed less than two pounds each, said that while the Calmer research had been completed by then, it would have been a reassuring tool for her and her spouse when they went home to sleep or take a shower after doing plenty of hang hugging and skin-to-skin touching.

    “The NICU is the most difficult place to be. It challenges you in every single way,” she said.

    Methany’s children spent over four months at the hospital and were medically fragile when they were bought home but are now thriving at almost a year old.

    Dr. Ran Goldman, who has been a pain researcher at the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute for 20 years but wasn’t involved with the Calmer study, said the device shows promise because there’s a greater understanding that healing is delayed when pain is part of an infant’s treatment.

    Scientists in the late 1960s believed babies didn’t feel pain but there’s now an increasing understanding that they’re more sensitive to it than older children or adults because their pain-inhibiting mechanisms haven’t fully developed, said Goldman, who is also an emergency room physician at BC Children’s Hospital.

    “Research has shown that babies who suffered pain as neonates do keep this memory later on and respond differently when they get pain experiences later in life,” he said.

    — Follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

     

    Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


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    Ontario court upholds stay of legal proceedings against 3 tobacco companies

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  • TORONTO — An Ontario court has upheld an order that suspended legal proceedings against three major tobacco companies, rejecting arguments from lawyers representing Quebec smokers.

    Ontario Superior Court Justice Thomas McEwen issued his decision Wednesday but did not lay out his reasons, saying those would be released at a later date.

    The companies — JTI-Macdonald Corp., Rothmans, Benson & Hedges and Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. — were granted the stay last month as part of the creditor protection process.

    They obtained the protection shortly after Quebec’s highest court upheld a landmark decision that ordered them to pay more than $15 billion to smokers in two class-action lawsuits.

    The companies have said they had no choice but to seek the stay so they could continue to operate as they try to negotiate a global settlement with all those who have claims against them, including the class-action members and several provincial governments.

    But lawyers representing the class members argued the stay in their case should be revoked if the tobacco companies plan to appeal the Quebec ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.

    At a hearing earlier this month, they said the companies cannot negotiate a settlement in good faith while also challenging the findings of the court.

    The lawyers said if the companies plan to seek leave to appeal, the matter should be sent back to the Quebec court so it halt the implementation of its ruling until the appeal process is complete.

    In his decision, McEwen said the stay order would require parties to seek the court’s permission before launching new proceedings involving the companies, including any applications for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

    The judge had previously extended the order to June 28, with a hearing to be held a few days earlier.

    The Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health, which was behind the class-action suits, said it would hold off commenting on the ruling until the judge’s reasons were released. 

    Lawyers representing several provincial governments had opposed the Quebec lawyers’ application, saying one group of claimants should not be prioritized over others.

    Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press


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    Health

    Central Alberta family looking for someone to be their Easter Miracle

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  • This post has been submitted by the mother of a young Central Alberta father.  He moved to Calgary years ago to be closer to medical care.   His wife grew up in Sylvan Lake and Lacombe.  Together they’re raising 2 children and unfortunately their future is uncertain.  

    From Julie. 

    You may or may not have seen a desperate plea from a Central Alberta family trying to save a loved one’s life.  This is the kind of situation that requires a really large number of people to help out.  You never know who’s going to step forward and become someone’s hero.  The key is, they have to know about the situation before they can act on it.  So.. here’s a bit of information about this

    Alex’s Journey

    Having a baby is supposed to be a wonderful time in your life. Alex was born looking healthy; however, it all went wrong for him at 22 months of age.

    After being rushed by his Father and I by car to our nearby city hospital, Alex was hospitalized for 5 days with a 105 degree fever, which nothing would bring down. Alex was in so much pain, screaming a blood curdling sound that made you think someone was murdering this poor baby slowly.

    Once at hospital he was whisked away to try to identify the problem. They told us he was a mess inside and needed to be airlifted to Sick Children’s Hospital. Once there it became a series of surgeries and a lengthy hospital stay. His kidneys were being affected by a blockage he had developed.

    By age four he lost one kidney and again needed several hospital visits and surgeries to help save his other kidney. The doctors explained that Alex has Chronic Renal Failure and would eventually need a kidney transplant. At age 8 we almost lost him again due to a potassium overload in his remaining kidney that gradually slowed his heart dangerously. We made another trip to Sick Children’s Hospital to get his levels back down before his heart stopped.

    Through all these hardships Alex always remained a tough little guy. Now as a 29-year-old with a loving wife and 2 little ones, the time has come for our son and he is in need of a kidney.

    My name is Julie, I am his mother and I have said from the beginning of this journey that I will give my kidney. That being said, it would be wise to have more donors that are willing as well to help him have a greater chance of success. His older brother has also volunteered, so please help us give Alex and his family a happy, healthy life.

    Julie (mom)

    If you have Blood Type O and this something you could do, our family would be so grateful to have the chance to keep him in our lives and give him the opportunity to watch his children grow up. Anyone can be tested to see if they are a match. You will need Alex’s full name so please visit the Facebook Group we have set up and reach out to our admin/s. https://www.facebook.com/groups/708888052863495/

    To Get Tested: 403 344 4635


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