Children back on their feet with innovative walker
Twenty children with a serious bone condition are back on their feet thanks to an innovative walker, which was the brainchild of University Sheffield graduates and is now being sold across the country.
The prototype for the special walker, known as the Sheffield Micro Walking Frame, was developed by University of Sheffield engineering graduates, Barry Tan and Lim Ji Hui and helps youngsters with brittle bone disease who struggle to use taller frames.
The walker has since been created by therapy experts at Sheffield Children's Hospital, with Sheffield-based company Kingkraft manufacturing the product, with advice from the National Healthcare Technology Co-Operative Devices for Dignity (D4D).
Since the invention was made in 2010 it has helped a score of children and has even been adopted by other specialist children's centres such as Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Liz Knowles, an Occupational Therapist at Sheffield Children's Hospital, who has been treating children with brittle bone disease for more than 12 years, said some children can have thighs as short as 14cm and existing walking frames are unusable.
"None of the walkers were the right height for the first little boy who used our walker," she said.
"He literally had never walked independently until the day he got the walker. When we tried him with the Micro Walking Frame, he was able to walk down the ward with some support from the physio. Within the week he was running with it!"
The walker is used alongside a drug therapy for children who have brittle bone disease, or Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a genetic disorder which affects the development of bones from birth.
OI causes frequent breaks and loose joints, as well as short stature, spine deformities and difficulties with general life skills including walking.
In many cases young children suffering from the disease are confined to an electric wheelchair to prevent fractures.
For the last 13 years children with OI have been treated with the drug Pamidronate from birth, and develop mobility more rapidly. This means they move on to walking faster – but until the walker was created there was no other frame to help them.
As a specialist centre treating this condition, Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust treats more children with brittle bones than anywhere else in the UK and the therapists chose to collaborate locally to make a new design.
The development of the walker was fully funded by the Children's Hospital Charity with a generous donation from the Yorkshire and West Riding Freemasons.
Now Sheffield Children's Hospital has 15 Sheffield Micro Walking Frames in use by children suffering from OI and Birmingham Children's Hospital and Great Ormond Street are also using the innovation.
Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, director of Enterprise Education and faculty director of Women in Engineering at the University of Sheffield, said: "We are very proud that our students are embracing social challenges from our community and converting them into practical solutions that are making a real difference. Students working together with local people, companies and organisations is one of our guiding principles. This walker is a great example of what effective collaborations can achieve."
Dr Avril McCarthy, scientific and technology advisor at D4D, said: "The Children's Hospital, Sheffield, sets an excellent standard for specialist OI units across the world. We were proud to be involved in the development of this project by providing advice on the standards and stability of the walker – working alongside the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Clinical Engineering Department at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital."
D4D helped Kingkraft and Sheffield Children's Hospital to obtain a CE mark for the Sheffield Micro Walking Frame which allowed it to be sold across the EU.
The University of Sheffield
With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK's leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.
The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007). These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world.
The University's research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.
Sheffield Children's Hospital
Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust provides an exceptionally wide range of general and specialist services for children and young people across South Yorkshire and beyond on an outreach basis. These services include neurosurgery, oncology, endocrinology, specialist orthopaedics, neonatal surgery, metabolic disease, gastroenterology, respiratory diseases, intensive care, cystic fibrosis and neurology.
Secondary healthcare – providing a range of hospital services for the children and young people of Sheffield. This includes Emergency Department (ED) services, acute paediatrics, orthopaedics, general surgery, general paediatrics, dermatology and diabetic care.
Sheffield Children's Hospital
Devices for Dignity
Delivering technology solutions to support people with long-term conditions, preserving their dignity and independence.
Devices for Dignity (D4D) Healthcare Technology Co-operative is a National programme, hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, working with people, clinical and healthcare staff, inventors, charities, industry and academics - bringing real solutions to areas of clinical and patient need in Assistive technologies, Urinary continence management and Renal technologies.
Devices for Dignity (D4D) is – supported by the National Institute for Health Research, the Technology Strategy Board, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council, with additional funding from the Department of Health Innovation Team. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the link below.
Devices for Dignity
Kingkraft have over 25 years experience designing and manufacturing equipment which helps to maintain the independence of people with varying degrees of mobility.
The company is owned and managed by a team of engineers and physiotherapists and is a recognised specialist in the field of bathing, moving and handling and seating/sensory integration.
Kingkraft provide help and guidance to customers in making major decisions about room design and equipment specification. For further information, please visit the link below.
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The University of Sheffield
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