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How a Young Girl Developed an Innovative Chemotherapy Device

Kylie Simonds, an 11-year-old girl from Connecticut, has developed a backpack-based system that enables patients to receive chemotherapy without an IV pole.

Three years ago, Simonds learned first-hand of the hassles involved in being constantly tethered to a "huge and scary" IV pole after being diagnosed with a connective tissue cancer. She underwent 46 weeks of chemotherapy.  

"I used to have to use the IV poles, and I always tripped over all the wires. It was hard to walk around, and I always had to have someone push it for me because I was kind a weak when I was in chemo," she explained to WTNH News.

She's certainly not alone in finding IV poles frustrating, which can be difficult to navigate. Their lines and cords can get enmeshed in the IV poles and they can get hung up on door thresholds. They can cause the users to injure their feet on the legs of the pole and can be top-heavy.

While in fifth grade, her class was asked to come with an idea for an invention that would solve a common problem. Simonds then quickly came up with the idea for the IV backpack, which she calls the iPack.

Kylie with her chemotherapy backpack  
Kylie with her chemotherapy backpack.  

While her chemotherapy proved to be successful, she was inspired to develop an alternative to the IV pole for chemotherapy. Simonds says that wishes she had such a product when she was undergoing chemotherapy and says she has two friends who could benefit from the device. One of them has a prosthetic leg and is unable to walk by himself with the IV pole. Another friend is forced to struggle with carrying the IV pole to and from the hospital and her home.

Simonds recently won four awards (and a standing ovation) after entering a prototype of the device in the UCONN Invention Convention, including the show's Patent Award, which covers the costs of filing for a U.S. patent for the device. She already has a provisional patent covering the device. 

"I think it's a wonderful idea," said Birte Wistinghausen, MD, clinical director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in an interview with Yahoo Health. "The stigma would fall away from seeing an IV pole, (and) it would be very useful for pediatric oncology patients in providing them much more mobility and freedom."

A schematic of the backpack based IV unit.
A schematic of the backpack based IV unit.

The device is a backpack containing an IV bag holder, a custom infusion pump, a drip bag protection shield, and a flap to cover the pump. The IV bag holder would offer protection of the drip bag, enabling its users to be mobile while protecting against puncture and compression. A second cage can be added if needed.

The pole holding the IV bag made of lightweight metal. The bag also is designed to give the user easy access to the infusion pump to make changes to the IV's flow rate. It also offers access to the pump's battery to facilitate changing it.

Simonds is now working to raise funding on crowdfunding sites Go Fund Me and Crowdrise to make a more sophisticated prototype of the device and ultimately manufacture the device. To date, she has raised nearly $30,000 towards a $50,000 goal on Go Fund Me.

The finished version of the IV backpack will be customizable and offered in versions for boys and girls, and eventually for teens and young adults. 

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN and Qmed. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz.

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