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"Fighting the Odds"

"Fighting the Odds"

Engineering students develop tools for preemies
University of Hartford Observer, Spring 2009

How do you give engineering an emotional appeal? By focusing first on the benefits that result from engineers' work. Even better, show how engineers can make life better for, or save the lives of, babies. Premature babies have low birth weights and have developed insufficient body fat to keep themselves warm. And their brains and autonomic nervous systems are also underdeveloped. That puts them at high risk for potentially deadly apnea, or cessation of breathing.

When Jim Smith was hired by the University of Hartford to write a feature about the work being done by students in the university’s Center for Life Support and Sustainable Living, he zeroed in immediately upon the work they were doing to help premature babies. Jim’s story for the university’s The Observer magazine began by painting a picture of the challenges facing babies born too soon; it then described exciting new devices being pioneered by professors and students in the center that could significantly improve both monitoring and care of these tiny infants.  

“Early in my career, I was executive director of a March of Dimes chapter,” says Jim.  “I vividly remember visiting a neonatal intensive care unit where there were babies so small that you could have held one comfortably in your two hands. They were being kept warm in incubators and they were quite literally fighting for their lives.

“Monitors would alert nurses if a baby stopped breathing. The nurses would rush to the incubator and manually remind the baby to breathe. It happened often, and it was a wrenching thing to observe. I wanted my readers to contemplate that scenario before embracing the valuable work being done by the university’s students to address it.”

Click on the link at left to read "Fighting the Odds" from the Spring 2009 issue of the University of Hartford's alumni magazine, The Observer.

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