I've never given up on my stubborn belief that anybody can change the world. I think that's why I find this story of a 59-year-old car mechanic who's about to save thousands, if not millions, of moms' and babies' lives so flat-out awesome.
Seven years ago, Argentinian car mechanic Jorge Odón was hanging out with his co-workers when some of them started talking about a YouTube video showing how you can use a plastic grocery bag to retrieve a cork from the inside of an empty wine bottle. You essentially insert the plastic bag, blow air into it until the bag envelops the cork, then you pull it out. Cool party trick, but Odón realized this concept could be used for much bigger things.
If this simple inflate-and-retrieve method can pull a cork out of a bottle, couldn't it also be used to help deliver babies stuck in their mother's birth canal? Obstructed labor is not only responsible for large numbers of neonatal deaths worldwide, but also for roughly eight percent the maternal deaths that occur each year—that's over 20,000 women we're talking about. This could be a real game-changer.
Excited by his idea, Odón woke his wife up in the middle of the night to tell her about it. She thought he was crazy (and was probably so annoyed at being woken up!) but Odón didn't give up on his idea. In fact, the very next morning, he met with an obstetrician and asked about the feasibility of using an inflatable plastic bag-type device to help with cases of obstructed labor. The doctor had a very different reaction from Odón's wife, so Odón set to work in making his idea a lifesaving reality.
Flash forward to today: The Odón Device has been backed by the World Health Organization, and a U.S. tech company is putting it into production. Doctors see it as a safer alternative to the forceps and suction cups that are currently used in cases of obstructed labor, and the New York Times reports "it has enormous potential to save babies in poor countries, and perhaps to reduce cesarean section births in rich ones."
Obviously, this is fantastic news—and when it comes to my feelings on hero mechanic Jorge Odón, I've got to borrow from the lyrical genius of Salt-n-Pepa: "Whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man." Amirite?
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