July 1, 2008 Industrial designers created a floating support brace from foam and other materials. It protects the spine from damage during swiftwater rescues. The harness corrects itself if it turns upside down in the water, and includes no metal.
Each year, there are over 7,000 drowning deaths, many in rough, choppy waters of rivers and oceans. But rescue efforts in swift water are among the most difficult for emergency teams. Now, a new rescue device makes saving lives easier.
The water's edge may seem peaceful and serene, but to emergency workers, a fast moving river can be deadly.
"We had a group of kids that decided they were going to help with the recovery effort that we were doing and ended up being victims themselves," Wayne Akers EMT and recovery diver for Swift Water Rescue, told Ivanhoe.
Rescue efforts in swift water can be difficult. Now, industrial design students from Virginia Tech have created a water rescue harness. It was a class project, that's ready for a real rescue.
"The goal of this device is to make it easier and safer to rescue someone in the water with a spinal injury," Liz Varnerin, industrial design student at Virginia Tech, told Ivanhoe.
It's called hydro-spine, and it's being tested today by professionals. It provides better spine support to help prevent injuries, and better flotation to guard against water hazards.
"The biggest thing we did was provide flotation, so if the unconscious person should become face down in the water, it will flip them over and keep them in the correct position in the water," said Varnerin.
It has handles for pulling and lifting, holes allow access to take patient's vital signs, four buckles fasten all at once, reducing the time it takes to secure a victim, and a stiff head support reduces the need for a neck brace. It also travels straight to the hospital.
"It's an all no metal design so the patient can stay in it in the hospital and go thru x-rays," said Varnerin. The device received rave reviews from rescuers.
"This has been one of the most gratifying projects I've ever worked on in school," Brian Sandifer, industrial design student at Virginia Tech, told Ivanhoe.
An A+ assignment with a huge reward.
HYDROSPINE: The Hydrospine is a rigid frame designed for use in water rescue situations, especially in fast-moving rivers. It is made from structural foam, a neoprene liner, nylon strops, buoyant buckles, and buoyant foam. It is intended to replace the metal framed harnesses currently used by rescue workers to stabilize accident victims with possible spinal injuries. The metal-free frame allows doctors to perform MRI and other scans at the hospital without removing the patient from the protection of the brace. The brace is designed to right itself if tipped upside down in the water, protecting the victim from drowning.
THE SPINE: The back is made up of bones, muscles and other tissues that compose the body's trunk, from the neck to the pelvis. The spinal column is the centerpiece. It supports the upper body's weight and houses the spinal cord, which carries the signals that control movement and convey sensations. The spinal column is made up of more than 30 bones, called vertebrae, stacked on top of one another. Each contains a round hole that creates a channel. Small nerves, called roots, enter and emerge from the spinal cord through spaces between the vertebrae. The spaces are protected by round, spongy pads of cartilage called intervertebral discs; these enable some flexibility in the lower back and serve as shock absorbers to cushion the bones as the body moves. The entire network is held in place by bands of tissue called ligaments and tendons. Damage to these disks and the spinal cord can occur because of impacts like car accidents, disease, or over time as a result of general wear and tear.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.