at 3 months
The whole process started in December 2014, when Teddy’s mom, Jaclyn Rhoades, had submitted a proposal to Elizabethtown’s Engineering Department asking if students there could design a vibrating device to improve Teddy’s muscle tone.
The three students — Jake Evans, David Good and Buck Kauffman — were intrigued enough to take on the project. They met with Jaclyn to find out what problems the therapists had and what they could do to help them. They found that creating a hands-free vibration device would make therapy easier for everyone involved.
Teddy suffers from hypoxic brain injury, brain damage from lack of oxygen. His mom found him face down in his crib when he was 3 months old, blue and not breathing. She revived him, but the damage left him with cerebral palsy, which affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance.
Megan has had success working with a hand-held vibrating device during home visits to Teddy. The vibrations stimulate the muscles to activate spine and trunk erection. The students observed one of these visits and saw what a struggle it was to hold Teddy and use the device. They thought a vibrating vest might free up their hands and make the session easier and more productive.
They started working on the design in January 2015 and began prototyping this past January. They bought a child’s life jacket, tore out the inflatable material and built the motor, powered by two AA batteries. The installed motor could be moved to different areas of the vest, depending on which area of Teddy’s back was the target for the vibrating.
Total cost of the materials: $50.
A successful test
On the day of the test, David, Buck and Jake stood behind Mom as Megan and Alissa snapped on the vest and flipped the switch.
Nothing happened. The vibrations weren’t hitting the right spot.
Megan moved the motor up higher on Teddy’s back and tried again.
Right away, Teddy began to slowly straighten up, as if his head and shoulders were connected to some unseen strings from the ceiling.
Jaclyn’s face lit up in a smile, and the three students reacted with something approaching astonishment.
“Sweet!,” Jake said. “It’s doing exactly what we thought it would do.”
“It’s kind of surprising to see, actually,” Buck said.
“Definitely a good feeling,” Jake added.
And Teddy? He just took in his new view of the world, scanning the smiling faces that surrounded him, probably wondering what all the fuss was about.