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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Madonna researchers foster patient independence

September 18, 2018

Chad Fuller has always been a big proponent of staying hydrated. The former athlete from David City, Nebraska, practiced what he preached and encouraged student athletes to fuel up before, during and after workouts. For Chad, that simple task of raising his arm up to his mouth to take a drink out of a water bottle became nearly impossible following a 2017 spinal cord injury due to a water-related accident. Chad spent eight weeks recovering at Madonna’s Lincoln Campus

Chad recalls his frustration when he needed a drink of water. His only option was to request assistance from a staff member, his family or friends. Madonna’s Institute for Rehabilitation and Engineering studied the issue Chad and other patients with limited mobility faced. They developed a simple but effective solution called the Madonna Hydration System.

For Chad, it’s freedom. “The independence that it gives you is really good,” Chad said. “I have to ask people for enough things during the day. If I can just ask someone every couple of hours to fill my water bottle, then I can handle taking the drink myself; that’s really beneficial,” Chad said. 

Lead developer Chase Pfeifer, Ph.D., assistant research director, says the Hydration System is “a simple but effective tool for independence and improved health.” Patients and clinicians weighed in on the design featuring a versatile clamp for mounting to any surface including a wheelchair. The clamp is attached to a 2-foot semiflexible extender that ends with a director. The director helps position the blue-colored Camelbak hands-free adaptor mouthpiece to the desired location for the user. Researchers used Madonna's 3D printer to create the customized clamp and mouthpiece. The water bottle’s lid connects to the system via a ring and carabineer, allowing for regular cleaning and water refills. 

Occupational Therapist Cara Bassinger has recommended the system to a number of her patients. She says it enables her patients to drink unassisted, avoid health complications associated to dehydration and becoming more independent. “It’s just one more way for them to advocate for themselves and have that control back.”

Spencer Smith from Independence, Kansas, enjoys the freedom of quenching his thirst whenever the urge strikes. "It's allowed me to stay more hydrated than I'd normally be able to," said Smith, who sustained a paralyzing spinal cord injury when he fell from a bridge.  The simple act of biting down opens the valve and a sucking motion brings water to his lips. "I can drink whenever I want to on my schedule; I don't have to rely on someone else," said Spencer.

Restoring small levels of independence make a significant impact in the lives of our patients at Madonna.