A Mother Built a Solar-Powered Unit To Save Infants From a Common Disease

And it's only getting started.
Derya Ozdemir

A small box glowing with a brilliant blue light has saved the lives of numerous babies since its inception, and it's only getting started.

This innovative box is called Crib A’Glow, and it's a low-cost phototherapy solution for treating newborn babies with neonatal jaundice, a condition in which a baby's skin and the whites of the eyes appear yellow due to excess bilirubin. When untreated, this ailment, which is extremely common as newborns haven’t developed the liver function to properly process the bilirubin, can cause hearing loss, blindness, brain damage, and even death, which is why instant treatment is recommended. This is where the novel phototherapy unit comes in.

Saving tiny hearts thanks to technology

Crib A’Glow was developed by Virtue Oboro, a mother and graphic designer from Nigeria, after her son’s experience with jaundice. Shortly after giving birth in 2015, Oboro noticed the classic yellow hue commonly associated with the disease in her son, and right after, he was diagnosed with jaundice. However, due to a lack of available phototherapy units in the hospital, his health deteriorated to the point that a blood transfusion was needed immediately. Her son survived the incident; however, Oboro was a changed woman after that.

Oboro decided to find a means to save millions of infants from jaundice and give them a chance to receive treatment before permanent brain damage occurs. After all, despite all of the dangerous side effects of severe jaundice, the disease is manageable once diagnosed. In fact, phototherapy, which exposes infants to light, eliminates excess bilirubin, and cures jaundice is the only thing needed; but, in many hospitals, scarcity of light units, and ignorance of both the dangers and severity of the disease can lead to irreversible outcomes.

To solve this issue, Oboro teamed up with medical professionals and biomedical engineers to build a prototype, and Crib A'Glow, a solar-powered, foldable, and low-cost phototherapy unit, was born. The unit's light rays focus on the baby’s body to ensure maximum efficiency while employing LED lights prevents skin burns, dehydration, and rashes, which can be common side-effects of such devices, according to the Guardian. Then, founding Tiny Hearts Technologies, a company dedicated to making solar-powered phototherapy cribs, would be Oboro's next mission. 

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Crib A'Glow is special in that it eliminates the issues of access, cost, and irregular power sources that make treating the condition so difficult. Thanks to its genius design, it has now a place in the pediatric units of many hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory, like Maitama, Wuse, and Asokoro District Hospitals. As of this writing, the unit has saved 550,000 babies, while Oboro is continuing to make progress in eradicating neonatal jaundice and raising awareness throughout Nigeria, and hopes that the units can be utilized in every Nigerian hospital in the future, particularly ones in rural areas where there are currently no phototherapy units.

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