The Burn Unit’s favorite gun

Have you ever used spray tan? spray sunscreen? spray painted? used Febreeze? Then you have the skills to help burn victims become good as new!

When the skin is burned away, there is nothing to protect you from bacteria. It is critical to cover exposed injuries immediately to avoid infections. Skin grafts are typically used but they are painful, take weeks to heal and often leave noticeable scars.

That’s where Dr. Jörg C. Gerlach comes in. He found a way to take a small sample of healthy skin cells from the patient (including stem cells), grow them out and spray the cells, using a “spray gun”, over the wound. Why is this so great?

  • From the point of collecting healthy cells, the entire process takes only 1.5 hours.
  • The technology uses the patient’s own cells so it will not be rejected.
  • The procedure is very light and painless relative to it’s surgical alternative.
  • The patient heals faster (days vs. weeks) and has much lesser scaring.

I don’t want to show graphic pictures. To give you an idea of how well this spray gun works, look at this boy. He had 2nd degree burns covering the front of his torso: neck to navel. This is him after the treatment.

Zed Merrick after 2nd degree burn treated with ReCell spray gun

Can you imagine what this 2 year old would have had to go through if this treatment wasn’t available?

ReCell Treatment has a variety of other uses from improving the appearance of scars and wrinkles, tattoo removal and other skin damage/conditions. 

For Zed’s full story, including some graphic pictures, read here: it’s skincredible.


Hot stuff: a daring fire escape

It should be no surprise that there is great concern over evacuation plans for people with disabilities.

Have you ever seen an evacuation plan that includes disability-specific details? Even more alarming, everyone has the right to live in an apartment on the third floor, but not everyone gets to have access to the fire escape. If the fire alarm is going off, who will let the deaf know?

Clearly enough is not being done, but not for lack of trying on part of these researchers in Japan…

Introducing, the Wasabi Fire Alarm

Wasabi Fire Alarm for deaf

Inside the smoke detector are spray cans of Wasabi Extract–you know the seemingly benign but deceptively potent horseradish paste served with sushi? Seems like an appropriate way to be alerted to a fire.

13 of 14 deaf sleepers, in a study, woke up within 2 minutes of the alarm going off. Participants helped determine the best concentration of wasabi in the spray to wake up subjects without effecting their eyes. I wonder if they gave participants complimentary ginger.

The Wasabi Fire Alarm has been in on the market since 2009 (recommended for hotels, homes, and hospitals alike!) and won the Ig Nobel Prize in 2011.

Okay, who’s craving sushi now? Seems like the just the way to celebrate their achievement!

Fowl Shoes: Buttercup’s most snazzy accessory are making a splash!

Disabled animals deserve the best tech us humans can think up! It’s Animal Week and Technology Tuesday, so I’ve got something pretty sweet for you: Buttercup.

Buttercup the duck with her 3D printed prosthetic footButtercup was born with a deformed leg last year. Feathered Angels Sactuary in Tennessee took over from there and provided the best of care to ease this duckling’s pain and restore its ability to walk and swim.

This year, Buttercup’s angels scanned the healthy foot of his sister. The plastic used in 3D printing is rigid and unsuitable to best restore function of the limb. Instead, they printed a mold for a silicon cast that was then worn by the duckling.

Buttercup's 3d printed foot

I think it’s safe to say that Buttercup is no ugly duckling;
and he’s got some pretty fly shoes if you ask me!

Okay, now who’s going to get this song out of my head?

Starstruck: the Terminator

You got me! Today’s post isn’t about the Governator. It’s about his earthly, reality-based reincarnation. He’s likely to be famous tho — my spidey senses say he’s in the running for Dad Of The Year.

Newly equipped with RoboCop – worthy carbon fiber armory, this man one upped every other father who’s sitting on their porch with a shotgun as their daughter’s date tries to pick her up.

Terminator D

This man — the terminator of relationships perhaps — has some legit gear to give back so much he lost in an accident 6 years prior. His bionic prosthetic arm is capable of mind-boggling amount. He can type, crack eggs, deal cards, tie his shoes and if he so chose to, sit on the porch with his shotgun, he has the trigger finger for that too! 😉

Rock and roll! Terminator bionic arm arm dad rock and roll

Travel on the cheap: A solar powered journey

In 2010, Haidar Taleb started a 200 mile journey across the United Arab Emirates in his power chair.

Inventor of the solar powered wheelchair, Taleb put his invention to the ultimate test, and challenged the way we see disability.

By taking-up this journey, I want to raise awareness about disability and tell people that we, despite our disability can achieve anything as an individual, if we are determined to try and have courage to do so. — Haidar Taleb

This is a really cool way to make travel accessible to everyone. I for one would love to see disabled and able-bodied road-trippers alike, flocking down the bike lane off to their next adventure.

I mean, if you’re going to vacation in a sunny paradise, might as well–right? Moral of the story, sunny states, countries and tropical islands need to adopt a pedestrian/solar powered lane on all their big roads to facilitate such roadtrips!

All in favor say “roadtrip!!”

Superhuman sight hitting eyeballs near you

There is often a debate about whether equipment for disabled people gives them an unfair advantage (like cheetah legs for Oscar Pistorius at the Olympics for example).

This time, there is no debate.

This device, designed to improve sight for people with age-related macular degeneration, most certainly gives them capabilities beyond the normal eye.

By wearing a special contact lens with 4 tiny mirrors embedded inside, the user is able to have telescopic vision by simply putting on some shades.

How it works:

  • When wearing the contact lens alone, light passes through the center and you experience normal vision.
  • When you wear the lens with polarizing glasses, light hits the outside of the lens. From there it is reflected back and forth off the mirrors and into the center of the eye, magnifying the field of view 2.8x.Telescoping bionic lens - mirrors

People with age-related macular degeneration suffer damage to the center of the eye but the outer edges are often left unscathed by the disease. The value of this technology is that it utilizes that outer region and can restore sight in those people.

Obviously, the military has taken an interest in the device. Anyone can wear this lens–who wouldn’t want to feel like Superman? And it comes with a disguise! Glasses work for Clark Kent…

Read more here.

Duct Tape Surfing

Making summer plans and concerned that you might have to miss out due disability?  There’s an app… Ther’s an office supply for that!
Note: Technology Tuesday is usually reserved for the most cutting edge, sci-fi-esque technologies that are applied to various disabilities and just blow your mind. But this use of low-tech Duct tape is substantially mind blowing to merit a break from the norm.

Two weeks ago marked the summer solstice. If you are a Beachologist, you probably observed this holiest of days by escaping the heat by hitting the waves!

While Beachology has been a little exclusive in the past, it has been increasingly accessible and welcoming to people of all abilities. Here is yet another example, and let me tell you it’s breathtaking!

Pascale, a mother of two in Australia, was paralyzed (paraplegic) 18 years ago. Her two sons surf and when she expressed to one of their surf buddies that she wished she could go with them…WT DuctTape surf 2

…they went out and bought some duct tape  and made her dream a reality. I present you Duct Tape Surfing.

The video of their journey is a MUST SEE. This summer they are doing a Legless Summer Trip, surfing all over Western Australia to inspire others. They raising money for this trip over the next week and you might even get a chance to surf with Ty–aka Duct Tape Man.
Visit to see how you can support their pilgrimage.

I’m so sorry. I’m really on a role with this metaphor! But I promise I’ll stop; I can restrain myself. 
Following the edicts of the Book of Duct Tape: With Duct tape, all things are possible.
Or was it the 11th commandment: Thou shalt surf with Duct tape?
Okay, now I’m done. 

DuctTape scuba divingTo be completely serious, this journey is equal parts unbelievable and awe-inspiring. I love that Ty helped Pascale literally get her feet wet and ultimately realize her dream.

They have have also dived together and it seems that these two can do anything!

Personally, I hope that at least 1 the 5 donors that get a surf lesson with Ty has a disability. It would be so cool if Duct tape surfing took off!

The funny thing about having an incurable disease

The funny thing about having an incurable disease is that I accept and believe there is no cure. It’s no wonder I’ve never considered being part of a clinical trial before–if there is no cure, they can’t find it.

Further, I don’t kid myself that clinical trials require anything less than really hard (painful and embarrassing) work. Not to brag, but I’m confident that a good 90% of the non-crohnie population would be mortified if they had to answer my routine doctorly questions–let’s not even talk about the doctor’s office gymnastics. It’s hard to imagine what else they could throw at you for a clinical trial for Crohn’s Disease.

There is a love/hate relationship with clinical trials. I think it’s harder for family to accept something bad and they will always look for hope, while patients learn to accept and move on.

More than the honest belief my condition is incurable; I don’t want to get my hopes up for no good reason. It makes you start doing silly things like imagine what you would be doing if you were healthy and whole. What your life would be like. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal; I vaguely remember something in the constitution about no cruel or unusual punishment.

The reason I bring this up is that I came across a clinical trial that looks pretty promising. I tried to imagine what my future might look like if I didn’t have Crohn’s. I tried to imagine what I’d do today or tomorrow if I were cured. I tried to imagine…but I came up blank. What could I possibly do with all that time I wouldn’t spend in the bathroom?? I could start a secret family in a foreign country somewhere! That is how much time I’d have.

There is a center that is doing this procedure in Panama; they are called the Stem Cell Institute. They use stem cells (the patient’s own cells – a totally ethical practice. No babies were hurt in the making of this cure) to treat so many conditions: spinal cord injuries, MS, arthritis, other autoimmune diseases, cerebral palsy, autism, and heart failure.

There is no doubt that these people are doing AMAZING work, but I have to admit that it’s a little hard to watch their videos of their successes. For example, I’d happily scream to the world and enthusiastically share with all my friends the video of their stem cell treatment of spinal cord injuries and how their patients are now learning to walk again (video posted below)! It’s so much easier for me to have hope for someone else than for myself. As soon as they start talking about “me” or patients like me, it makes me uncomfortable.

Hope is a funny thing. People often are compassionate and courteous about a disabled person’s limitations but sometimes don’t understand immediately that you can wield Hope like a weapon.

That said, I really enjoyed reading what the Stem Cell Institute has been up to. If you have the time to check it out, it could be some fun summer reading. I imagine a long vacation in Panama wouldn’t be terrible 🙂

I speak only for myself and my views in this blog. I may haved overgeneralize a bit, but if you see things differently, please chime in. I’d be curious to know what people disagree with me on.

Out of this world bionics

I remember when I was little and my biggest problem was figuring out what to do for the science fair. I looked for inspiration everywhere. I’m sure today’s kids in my shoes might be inspired to build a time-turner or the TARDIS. That’s the sort of thinking that makes a great scientist, or at least that’s what I’ve concluded from this Technology Tuesday.

rocket motor armRarely does rocket science and medicine cross paths, but this researcher is smack in the intersection! Michael Goldfarb of Vanderbilt University is trying to design a bionic arm that has more power that current options yet stays true to the natural weight of an arm. Other teams try to use batteries and electric motors to achieve this objective. Not Dr. Goldfarb; he opted for a rocket motor. As in, a mini space-shuttle motor.

Goldfarb’s power source is about the size of a pencil and contains a special catalyst that causes hydrogen peroxide to burn. When this compound burns, it produces pure steam. The steam is used to open and close a series of valves. The valves are connected to the spring-loaded joints of the prosthesis by belts made of a special monofilament used in appliance handles and aircraft parts.  —

I don’t know about you, but this guy is starting to sound like Inspector Gadget to me. Clearly, whatever science he’s doing is working because this prototype (as of 2007) could lift 20-25 lbs, which is 3 or 4 times greater than current arms. And the prototype can do it 3 to 4 times faster!

They also threw in a few more feats of engineering by upgrading from the typical two joints (elbow and claw); this model has elbow, wrist, thumb and finger joints. It’s movement closer approximates that of a natural gait. And, the precision with which they make the valves, is so high, that it is beyond our capabilities to measure! (Valve clearances are at 50 millionths of an inch)

I’m guessing Goldfarb has read this book. Maybe it might help inspire another science project!

Think Like A Rocket Scientist book

Environmentally disabled

Let’s face it. No matter how environmentally conscious a person is, the realities of disability are generally not so friendly to Mother Earth. Consider all the necessary medical equipment and their carbon foot print.

So it’s very exciting to see environmental responsibility meets medical technology!

Students at the University of Virginia designed this solar powered wheelchair.

Solar powered wheelchairBiomedical research and medical device technology is advancing so quickly! People are designing and building things I could have never dreamed of. But the same can be said about environmental sciences.

Medical Device and Environmental Tech sounds like the perfect marriage! And this chair is just their first born.

I can’t wait to see the next thing I haven’t dreamed up come to life!