Lotus Friedman, a 13-year-old hospitalized at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids after sustaining an acute spinal cord injury, is finally able to play video games since a skiing accident in January caused her to be paralyzed from the waist down.
While treating her injuries, a St. Luke’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Patient Care Technician Dan Wolfe learned that Lotus loved playing video games but was unable to play on her PC since her fingers could not use a keyboard and mouse.
With the help of the St. Luke’s team, Mr. Wolfe began creating an adaptive keyboard in the innovation lab (located on the hospital’s first floor).
“We worked on Lotus’ gaming keyboard for about four weeks,” said Rose Hedges, a nursing research and innovation coordinator, in a statement. “Since Lotus doesn’t have fine motor skills it was adapted to use her gross motor skills with larger buttons that correlate to something on the keyboard. We went through a couple of prototypes and the final product has LED lights and even her name on it.”
The St. Luke’s lab opened in November 2019 when the hospital partnered with Boston-based MakerHealth for the construction and ideation of an open-access medical technology and learning lab. MakerHealth, a spinoff of MIT’s Little Devices Lab in Massachusetts. It is the first hands-on fabrication lab of its kind in the Midwest.
During the pandemic the generate lab shifted its focus to help create items like cloth masks, face shields and other associated items. Work at generate has pivoted back to its original intent, which is to encourage and enable innovation at the hospital bedside and in UnityPoint Clinics.
“It’s been a little bittersweet to have this device,” said Lotus. “I don’t get to enjoy gaming like I used to yet and it’s something I am relearning, but I am thankful to have this device and the opportunity to do something I haven’t been able to do in a really long time. Even making the device was fun because I would go down to the innovation lab and hang out with everyone there and just get away from being in the hospital.”
[Watch now: Lotus uses the keyboard to play video games.]
The accident was so severe Lotus needed to be airlifted from UnityPoint Health – Finley Hospital in Dubuque to Cedar Rapids. Her C5 vertebra was shattered and replaced with titanium.
“We had been skiing down the hills and wanted to try this jump,” Lotus explained. “Basically, I went off the ramp too fast, did a flip and my skis popped off. I didn’t mean to do a flip and I landed chin-down. I knew something was broken and thought I was in shock and figured it was why I couldn’t move. I was conscious for everything.”
Her mom, Billie, says that when she first arrived she had “very little movement” but is now slowly regaining use of her arms and other areas. Lotus works on her rehab nearly 40 hours a week to build back strength and regain movement.
“We worked on a few other adaptive items for Lotus, but the gaming keyboard is the biggest project,” Ms. Hedges explained. “It’s satisfying to work with our team members and patients who are receiving care from us to help make their lives better. We are here as a resource to our nurses, techs, doctors and even patients. We don’t take orders, but we will work with the clinicians and patients to create innovative tools that improve their quality of life.”
Lotus’ keyboard is one of about 377 projects created in the innovation lab since it opened.