MOSCOW — CPR is a physically intense medical procedure for both the patient and the medical professional. And for people with different abilities, CPR can be a stumbling block for their careers in the medical field.
But Meagan Boll, a University of Idaho student in the WWAMI Medical Education Program who suffered a spinal injury that impairs movement in all four quadrants of her body, wasn’t willing to give up on her dream career. With the help of a group of University of Idaho engineering students, she will be able to conduct CPR with a specially built device that will allow her to become CPR-certified. (WWAMI stands for the states served by the University of Washington School of Medicine: Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.)
“Being a tetraplegic in medical school requires a lot of resourcefulness,” Boll said in a YouTube interview published by the university.
“When I approached Dr. (Jeff) Seegmiller about having an issue with getting CPR certified, he was able to reach out to the College of Engineering and brainstormed with them about creating their senior project to devise a CPR machine,” Boll said.
The group that designed and built the device was comprised Idaho mechanical engineering and material sciences students who built the chair’s attachment for Boll as part of a capstone project and a graduation requirement and had UI mechanical engineering student Josh Sewell as its leader.
“The goal was to create a device to help her pursue her dreams,” Sewell said.
“It was humbling to work with someone so motivated and passionate about what she was doing,” he said. “She kept us working hard and doing our best.”
Ty Newman, a material sciences student, explained how the device, built out of 80/20 aluminum, uses a lever action to let Boll conduct CPR compressions.
“She’s able to produce 20 pounds of force just with her movement, and that device will convert it to 100 to 120 pounds foot force, which is needed to compress a human chest of 5 to 7 liters,” Newman said.
After a series of trials and changes, the group came up with a workable device that was lightweight enough that it wouldn’t bog down Boll’s chair while being a modular and strong system that could be adjusted to fit her.
“It’s a new avenue, and as a team, we’ve always been a fan of not limiting your audience, but empowering those individuals,” Newman said.
Seegmiller, UI’s director of the WWAMI Medical Education Program, said going into the medical field could be challenging for folks with different physical abilities.
“Nearly 1 in 50 people are living with paralysis, and for the most part, they are unable to go into health care professions because of limitations related to performing CPR, which is always core requirement of the profession,” Seegmiller said in an email. “Any opportunities we have to break down that barrier allows capable individuals to serve as health care providers.
“I think this is the next big area in civil rights,” he said, “really looking at access to the health care professions for people with different abilities who traditionally haven’t gone into those professions.”