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The DIY Dialysis Machine 476

Posted by samzenpus
from the oh-so-cleansing dept.
Millie Kelly was born with a condition that required an immediate operation. During this operation her kidneys started to fail and since she was too small for dialysis machines, doctors told her parents that she was unlikely to live. Luckily for Millie, Dr. Malcolm Coulthard and a colleague tried to build a much smaller kidney machine on their own and they were successful. Her mother said, "It was a green metal box with a few paint marks on it with quite a few wires coming out of it into my daughter - it didn't look like a normal NHS one." The girl was hooked up to the machine over a seven day period to allow her kidneys to recover. Two years later, her mother Rebecca says she is "fit as a fiddle." You should see what Dr. Coulthard can build using a postage stamp, a tuning fork, a lawn chair and a jellyfish.
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The DIY Dialysis Machine

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  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:06PM (#24501039)

    Don't put pictures with stories unless you're going to take being a news organization seriously, with you know, editing and responsibility.

  • Unless (Score:5, Funny)

    by Capt James McCarthy (860294) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:06PM (#24501055) Journal

    Chewing gum was used, he's got nothing on Macgyver.

  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:08PM (#24501077)

    Sadly, this would have never happened in the US. The malpractice liability would be too great.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      That's we need for a legal system reform. Capping upper limit on malpractice lawsuits saves everyone money.

      • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:21PM (#24501319) Homepage

        Caps would be great, but there is something fundamentally wrong with society if someone could sue the doctor when the child was going to die anyway.

        In theory, there would be no standing to sue under the good samaritan laws.

        • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

          by EvanED (569694) <evaned@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:27PM (#24501401)

          In theory, there would be no standing to sue under the good samaritan laws.

          Except for the fact that they are being paid to provide care, which means that the Good Samaritan laws don't apply.

          See Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]: "As a result, medical professionals are typically not protected by Good Samaritan laws when performing first aid in connection with their employment."

          I still think they would be able to get away with it given the proper contracts, otherwise you wouldn't see other "last ditch" attempts.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by necama (10131)

          In theory, there would be no standing to sue under the good samaritan laws.

          Not true. One of the things they pound into your head when you take a CPR / First Aid course through the Red Cross is that you are covered by the Good Samaritan laws only if you do not accept a reward or compensation for your help. I guarantee the doctor who built the dialysis machine was paid for the effort.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by xaxa (988988)

            In theory, there would be no standing to sue under the good samaritan laws.

            Not true. One of the things they pound into your head when you take a CPR / First Aid course through the Red Cross is that you are covered by the Good Samaritan laws only if you do not accept a reward or compensation for your help. I guarantee the doctor who built the dialysis machine was paid for the effort.

            [Citation needed], I think.

            From the BBC article, "However, Dr Coulthard, together with senior children's kidney nurse Jean Crosier, devised a smaller version, then built it away from the hospital."

            From another article, "A newborn baby was saved from kidney failure after a paediatrician built a dialysis machine for her in his garage."

            I wouldn't be surprised if he built the machine in his own time.

      • Capping upper limit on malpractice lawsuits saves everyone money.

        Just let people sue for damage, it should be up to the FDA to institute punitive measures in the form of fines.
        Right now you have a system where health care companies are required to jump through numerous hoops to demonstrate safety, but if the system doesn't catch an issue they are still on the hook for multi-millions in damages. No wonder health care is expensive.

      • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by UdoKeir (239957) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:41PM (#24501629)

        We had tort reform for just such a thing here in Texas. Neither my insurance premiums nor healthcare costs have been reduced.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AySz88 (1151141)

          Neither my insurance premiums nor healthcare costs have been reduced.

          Perhaps because it prevented an increase in premiums? Or it went into preventing a decrease (or an outright increase) in quality of care? (And don't forget about inflation - if your costs didn't rise, then your real cost went down.)

          • Perhaps because it prevented an increase in premiums? Or it went into preventing a decrease (or an outright increase) in quality of care?

            These possibilities are worth considering.

            Or course, it's also quite likely that malpractice insurance companies, health care providers, and health insurers had little incentive to pass any savings on to those insured. An insurance marketplace isn't like some other basic marketplaces like, say, restaurants (if it were, we wouldn't eat out at the restaurant of our choice, w

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by wulfhere (94308)
          Oh, I'm sure some good came out of that tort reform. Won't *someone* please think of the insurance companies?
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

      by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:37PM (#24501571)

      You might be right there that in the US there are obstacles to cutting-edge medicine. At Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, they've been doing cross blood type transplants for years [cbsnews.com] for newborns. At first one would think that it violates a rule of basic organ transplants that the blood types must match. But what they've found is that newborns have not yet developed the antibodies that would cause rejection. The first child to have the operation was 7 as of the report in 2004.

      These kinds of transplants were necessary because of the scarcity of donor organs and only performed when there were no other options. First of all, most parents, understandably, do not want to/do not think to donate the organs of their new infant out of grief. Secondly, most newborns die of diseases that might cause them to be eliminated for consideration. Lastly, infants when born are different sizes and their organs also vary in size. Getting a suitable organ that was an exact blood and size match is extremely difficult.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jbeaupre (752124) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:53PM (#24501819)

      Not really. It is judged against standard of care. If, as in this case, the standard of care is to wait for the patient to die, then anything that doesn't make things worse could be ok.

      On a related note, I worked on a dialysis project. The method was so simple, cheap and easily duplicated (unpatentable), we couldn't figure out how to justify working on it as a company (and we really tried). So we donated the research and a large wad of cash to an outside researcher we had hired as a consultant. He was enthusiastic because he was tired of traditional methods failing his patients (literally telling parents their kids had a week to live). I have no doubt that he would seriously consider using this alternate method rather than watch a patient die, and this is a method far less proven than traditional dialysis. And I firmly believe parents would be eternally grateful for him taking the chance. If this doc ever thought of liability, it was the liability of losing a bit of his soul if he didn't do everything he could for a patient.

    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Marillion (33728) <ericbardes@gm a i l .com> on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:53PM (#24502745)

      Well, yes and no.

      Quite often pediatricians are at the mercy of the equipment makers. One of the doctors at the pediatric hospital where I work explained an example: They bought an MRI machine. The machine needs to know the patient weight so that it can make adjustments to energy levels accordingly. The machine as installed refused to allow patient weights under about 6 pounds (3kg). They went back and forth with the manufacture. The manufacturer was like "Who's under 6 pounds?" The hospital was like "We have a level 3 neo-natal intensive care unit. On any given week, we have dozens of patients under six pounds."

  • by loonicks (807801) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:08PM (#24501081)
    now i trust there will be a whole slashdot article category devoted to these girls? i, for one, welcome our new humanoid dialysis-building overlords.
    • by PlatyPaul (690601)
      I agree with the poster's sentiment (buried in the meme): using category icons rather than story-related pictures allows for quicker selection at no loss (assuming that you care to RTFA after you RTFS).

      Please, please, please go back to category symbols.
  • Oh come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snl2587 (1177409) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:08PM (#24501097)
    Is the picture really worth a thousand words? I think the summary is more than enough.
  • by damburger (981828) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:08PM (#24501099)
    He has one of these in each cave
  • by philspear (1142299) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:09PM (#24501101)

    You should see what Dr. Coulthard can build using a postage stamp, a tuning fork, a lawn chair and a jellyfish.

    Indeed, I SHOULD see that. What the hell DOES the good doctor make out of those things?!?

    • by DeadDecoy (877617) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:13PM (#24501189)
      Doctor Who?
    • by sm62704 (957197) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:39PM (#24501599) Journal

      I was rather disappointed. Samzepus goes for some cheap nerdy laughs while neither he nor the article said anything about how a Dialysis machine works, or why a conventional one can't be used on a 6lb baby. Wikipedia says [wikipedia.org]

      In hemodialysis, the patient's blood is pumped through the blood compartment of a dialyzer, exposing it to a semipermeable membrane. The cleansed blood is then returned via the circuit back to the body. Ultrafiltration occurs by increasing the hydrostatic pressure across the dialyzer membrane. This usually is done by applying a negative pressure to the dialysate compartment of the dialyzer. This pressure gradient causes water and dissolved solutes to move from blood to dialysate, and allows removal of several litres of excess fluid during a typical 3 to 5 hour treatment. In the US, hemodialysis treatments are typically given in a dialysis center three times per week (due in the US to Medicare reimbursement rules), however, as of 2007 over 2,000 people in the US are dialyzing at home more frequently for various treatment lengths.[2] Studies have demonstrated the clinical benefits of dialyzing 5 to 7 times a week, for 6 to 8 hours. These frequent long treatments are often done at home, while sleeping but home dialysis is a flexible modality and schedules can be changed day to day, week to week. In general, studies have shown that both increased treatment length and frequency are clinically beneficial.[3]

      Rather than the picture of the mom and her kid, I think a diagram of how one works [wikipedia.org] would be a lot more helpful.

      Not only was the summary bad, TFA was bad as well. Why couldn't a conventional dialysis machine be used? It doesn't say.

      Is there a doctor in the house?

      • by Otto (17870) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @03:14PM (#24502143) Homepage Journal

        Not only was the summary bad, TFA was bad as well. Why couldn't a conventional dialysis machine be used? It doesn't say.

        Is there a doctor in the house?

        Probably not enough blood in the patient.

        Using a dialysis machine means taking a fair amount of blood out of the body, running it through a bunch of tubes, and putting it back.

        This effectively adds a lot of extra volume to the blood system as a whole. Adults can spare some without effect, but children and babies are much smaller, and so you have to have a much smaller device which doesn't have as much volume in it.

    • Jellyfishkabobs.

      Sit on lawn chair. Stick tuning fork in jellyfish. Set postage stamp on fire. Roast jellyfish.

      * By use of this recipe, you agree that Acme Recipe Co is not responsible for any damages resulting from use of Portuguese Man-O-War or Bluebottle jellyfish in this manner. Acme Recipe Co does not warrant, expressly or implied, the edibility of jellyfishkabobs.
  • by vjmurphy (190266) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:09PM (#24501105) Homepage

    "You should see what Dr. Coulthard can build using a postage stamp, a tuning fork, a lawn chair and a jellyfish"

    I guess some sort of reclining jello chair that resonates with certain sonic frequencies that he can send in the mail. See, being MacGyver isn't THAT hard.

    • I guess some sort of reclining jello chair that resonates with certain sonic frequencies that he can send in the mail. See, being MacGyver isn't THAT hard.

      Nice try, but you still haven't accounted for the jellyfish's stingers. I think a recliner with stingers clearly is some kind of super-villain throne.

  • by vecctor (935163) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:10PM (#24501141)

    The picture of the patient is nice and all but the interesting part is the machine, right? I'd like a clear picture of that instead ...

  • ...you should see his espresso machine.
  • too big? (Score:2, Interesting)

    How can the existing machines be too big? From what I understand, a dialysis machine simply filters blood by pumping it through the machine. One needle for input, one for output. Was the needle too big or something? I suppose the pump might have been too powerful, but wouldn't that be an easy thing to switch out, rather than creating an entirely new machine?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rene S. Hollan (1943)
      I'd rather think that the volume of blood required to be in the machine at any one time would be such that there would be insufficient blood within the body of a patient so small.

      I suppose one could transfuse at the same time as starting dialisis, and at the appropriate time "close the loop", removing the source of transfused blood, but that strikes me as rather delicate in this case: IIRC, an infant has maybe two tablespoons of blood total, and the machine might require what, a pint? Maintaining a safe b

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        Oh, I would think there would be more than two tablespoons... that doesn't seem right to me.

        • Oh sure. Like I wrote, "IIRC". It's quite possible I did not RC. Perhaps two tablespoons is the maximum amount of blood that an infant can rapidly lose safely.

          Still, as others have noted, it's the amount blood that's required to prime the system that's likely the problem.

    • by jhfry (829244)

      best guess is that the larger machines require a greater quantity of blood... thus reducing the amount in the patient by a greater percentage in smaller patients.

    • Re:too big? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:39PM (#24501595)

      There might have been a minimum flow required to push blood across the cleaning medium. Given how small she was, she might not have had enough blood in her entire body to even use the larger machine.

      An electrical analogy: Say you have electrons you want to flow from A to B. If you use a wire too thick in diameter all the current is going to go into resistance of the wire. This girl's current source wasn't powerful enough to drive electrons through the wire, so the doctor swapped in a thinner wire.

      And since this is slashdot, a car analogy: Turbo chargers work by using exhaust air to spin a turbine which spins a compressor to compress incoming air. If you put a massive turbo on a small car, there wouldn't even be enough air to spin the blades. So you have to get a smaller turbine.

  • Award, and Patant. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scubamage (727538) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:18PM (#24501271)
    The doctors deserve to receive some sort of notice from whatever professional association they belong to, and also a Patent for the smaller size machine that they created. Thats some pretty amazing work - and they already have a human test trial to back it.
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:37PM (#24501563)

    put my menial, insignificant, network admin job into perspective. Dr. Malcolm Coulthard is a brilliant man, and he is saving lives.

    We should all try to be like this man.

    -ted

  • by Anonymous Coward
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dia_de_Los_Dangerous [wikipedia.org]!

    And he didn't even complete his doctorate!
  • Not News (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:45PM (#24501685) Journal
    MacGyver did it in season 5 episode 5 "Second Chance" way back in 1989. He must have taped it and copied MacGyver's design.
  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @02:59PM (#24501923) Homepage Journal

    It's got to take serious balls to whip something like this up and plug somebody's baby into it, even if the baby was going to die.

  • Get a grip people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msoori (614781) on Wednesday August 06, 2008 @04:09PM (#24502959)
    This is a great story and its sad how people are making rude comments about the mom. If you had a dying child, you were helpless and couldn't do anything to help save the child, you'd be like that too. So, please be a bit more sensitive about others. Regardless, this is something that can save the life of these insensitive people's children too if needed (if they are able to reproduce in the first place!) Give the guy some credit doing the best as a doctor to save a life.

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