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How a 15-year-old inventor flew across the world to help pressure injuries

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Nancy Munoz, VP, National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel
Nancy Munoz, VP, National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel

The adage “you are never too young to teach and never too old to learn” took a new meaning at the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) Biennial conference held in New Orleans on March 10 and 11. During this professional and scientific event, a high school student traveled internationally to present a research poster depicting his invention to reduce the pain and suffering associated with pressure injuries.

Image may contain: 1 personMoved by reading about Christopher Reeves' case, Joseph Chung, a 15-year-old from Tunku Putra High School in Sarawak, Malaysia, was inspired to find a solution for pressure injury prevention and treatment. Driven by the desire to prevent both occurrence and complications associated with pressure injuries, Joseph developed the “SMART eCUSHION.” 

Once inflated and placed as a support surface, the device de-inflates and inflates using a pressure sensor as the patient shifts to reposition. The redistribution of pressure on different parts of the body is vital to preventing pressure injuries. Healthy individuals shift positions frequently, but the ill individual may not be able to shift positions and blood flow to underlying tissues becomes impaired. Prolonged pressure, especially over bony areas of the body, can lead to pressure injuries.   

His SMART eCUSHION is equipped with an alarm to alert the care giver when the patient has been in the same position for prolonged periods of time. Based on the individual needs of the patient, the SMART eCUSHION can be programed to inflate or de-inflate at certain intervals. The device also has Bluetooth technology to send information to a smartphone, tablet, or computer. It was constructed using recycled parts and a technology called Arduino. The SMART eCUSHION is a prototype that has not been tested and the true efficacy of the device is yet to be validated.

Joseph was accompanied to the conference by his mother. This young innovator wishes to honor his parents' directive to become anything he wanted to be as long as that included helping others. When questioned as to how he was enjoying the conference, he shared that it was “interesting and that he was learning a lot.”

His visit reflects how committed The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel is in promoting education and future inventors in long-term care. NPUAP is the nation's leading scientific expert on pressure injury prevention and treatment. Our goal is to ensure improved patient health and to advance public policy, education, and research. We were moved by Joseph's passion and commitment, and he received Honorable Mention at the Biennial Conference poster session for his invention.

Nancy Munoz is the vice president of NPUAP.

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