A Durable, Reusable, Electricity-free, Accessible Mattress
When Dr. Hansen first started working on neonatal wards in rural Rwanda in 2010, she was surprised and frustrated to learn that hypothermia was a major obstacle to the care of newborns. Confronting startlingly high rates of hypothermia and hyperthermia–both of which can dangerous–she struggled to find solutions. About 30% of newborns were admitted cold. Skin To Skin care (STS), also called Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), worked much better than the few incubators that were available, but about 60% of babies remained cold despite STS. Mothers with twins would alternate warming one, then the other. Babies would often be admitted to the neonatal ward without their mothers because they were sick and had to stay in Labor and Delivery. Even if babies were admitted with the mother, the babies were often sick; healthcare workers had to watch their breathing and they needed to have IVs started and be on respiratory support, none of which worked well in combination with the positioning of STS. The babies who survived grew slowly and Dr. Hansen worried about their brain growth during this critical time in neurodevelopment. Determined to address this problem upon returning home, Dr. Hansen partnered with engineers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to devise a non-electric skin temperature heating pad that is easy to prepare, use and clean. The heating pad is designed to compliment STS when available, and to serve as a stand-alone external heat source when the mother is occupied, sick, or otherwise incapacitated.
Our simple solution
We began experimenting with various designs, always collaborating with the Rwanda Ministry of Health and Rwandan health care providers. After many modifications and improvements, we designed The DREAM Infant Warmer, which has now been field tested with extremely positive results and rave reviews from nurses and mothers. Our simple infant warming device has the potential to overcome many of the limitations encountered by current alternatives. It serves as a complement to STS, and allows for easy medical access and treatment. The device can be used in a medical setting, during transport, or at home – either alone, or in combination with STS.