Josh Diehl watched his older sister Lily undergo multiple surgeries over the years. After one surgery, she had to use a walker but she didn’t like its plain metal look.
That memory inspired Josh and two other eighth-graders at Christ Prince of Peace School to design and create decorative 3D-printed accessory kits for more than two dozen walkers that have been donated to area hospitals. In April, Josh and students Aubrey Davis and Kyle Newman delivered five brand-new walkers and accessory kits to the Pediatric Therapy Services Department at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
The new walkers will be given to pediatric patients who need them after an injury or surgery for a medical condition, said Cathy Samuel, therapy manager at Cardinal Glennon.
“It might be a patient leaving with a walker, it might be kids who come for outpatient therapy,” she said. “Sometimes it’s just temporary that they’re using the walker, and other times, they need it all the time.”
The accessory kits include about 60 small plastic pieces in two colors that snap onto the arms and legs of the walker and cup and phone holders that attach to each side. Those items were designed by the students and printed on a 3D printer.
They also designed and sewed a sling with straps that connects to the front of the walker. The sling can be removed and attached to a desk or table to act as a sling to elevate a patient’s leg. Design themes include animals, local sports teams and different cartoon characters.
The team at Christ Prince of Peace was awarded a $5,000 grant for the project through the eCYBERMISSION program, an online STEM competition for sixth- through ninth-grade sponsored by the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program. The program promotes teamwork, self-discovery and real-life applications of STEM.
Josh, Aubrey and Kyle, nicknamed “The Resourceful Rookies,” won the competition at the state level as seventh-graders and were awarded a trip to the national showcase and judging event last summer in Washington, D.C. The grant allowed them to create 30 accessory kits over the past year, which have been delivered to several area hospitals, including Cardinal Glennon.
The team used feedback from the national competition to improve the design and durability of the accessory kits. For example, the cup and phone holders originally were designed with a plastic piece that snapped on the frame of the walker. They discovered that method could not sustain the weight of a filled water bottle or a phone, so Josh designed a connector that could be secured with screws.
Aubrey said she hopes that the brightly colored accessories will encourage young patients to use a walker over crutches, which are less stable. In the team’s research, they cited an example of a friend who chose crutches instead of a walker following surgery. The friend fell twice in the first week after returning to school.
The students said they also hope their project brings a smile to young patients who need to use a walker. “It makes you feel good, knowing someone who might be sad as they are going through recovery, that this hopefully brightens their day,” Kyle said.
Pediatric therapy at Cardinal Glennon
The Pediatric Therapy Services Department at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital assists children in achieving the highest level of independence possible. The team of physical, occupational and speech therapists offer evaluation, diagnosis and treatment plans for children at Cardinal Glennon or referred by a physician in the community.
The physical therapy team works with patients experiencing burns or other dermatology conditions, developmental delays, diabetes, myelomeningocele (a type of spina bifida), neurological conditions, orthopedic conditions, traumatic brain injuries and torticollis. They also work with patients to address and improve developmental delays, muscle strength, overall balance, range of motion and walking and movement.
To learn more about the The Pediatric Therapy Services Department at Cardinal Glennon, visit www.ssmhealth.com/cardinal-glennon/services/pediatric-therapy.