Mechanic’s baby-sucker coming to SA

2014-07-31 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The idea to extract stuck babies using an inflatable plastic bag around their heads came to a motor mechanic in a dream.

Argentinian motor mechanic Jorge Odón (60) this week confirmed to sister paper Die Burger by e-mail that his final patented Odón Device is now currently undergoing clinical trials at the medical technology company Becton, Dickinson (BD) and is being tested by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Argentina. The WHO will next test the use of the Odón Device on 100 women in normal labour in South Africa, India and China, and then on 170 women in obstructed labour.

Odón said 30 babies had been saved in 2013 using his device.

BD aims to sell the Odón Device for less than $50 (R237) in developing countries to save mothers and babies. The device will especially be deployed in rural areas where there are no facilities to make cesareans and can also reduce the number of Caesareans in hospitals.

Odón last year recounted to the New York Times he had watched a YouTube video on a parlour trick to get a lost cork out of a wine bottle and he woke up knowing the same technique could save a baby stuck in the birth canal.

The video shows how a cork that had been pushed into an empty wine bottle, can be pulled out by inserting a plastic bag into the bottle, inflating it until it surrounds the cork, and then drawing it out. Odón made his first prototype by wedging his daughter’s doll into a glass jar and then gently extracting the doll by the head, using an inflatable bag sewn into a shirt sleeve by his wife.

Odón said only doctors are using the device in clinical trials, but they reported it appeared to be safe for midwives with minimal training to use. Asked if it is safer to use than the current clamp or suction cup technique, each of which has its own potential injuries, Odón said his device is designed to softly fold around a baby’s head, while still providing a firm enough grip to pull the baby out of the birth canal.

The WHO’s chief co-ordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health, Dr Mario Merialdi, said each year about 5,6 million babies are stillborn or die quickly, and about 260 000 women die in childbirth.

Obstructed labour, which can occur when a baby’s head is too large or an exhausted mother’s contractions stop, is a major factor of stillborn babies.

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