Barbara Kozol, a Medford pediatric therapist, has invented a “pea pod” for preemie babies to assist them during the first month after their arrival. Most premature infants struggle through a unique set of challenges before leaving the hospital and require constant monitoring. One of obstacles they may face is the inability to experience healthy and complete bone growth. Sarah Lemon, a freelance writer, said the following in The Mail Tribune about bone growth and preemie babies:
“An increased risk of fracture accompanies preemies‘ poor bone growth and density, leading to diminished height as adults. Consequently, the past decade has seen providers focus on physical-activity programs for infants in neonatal intensive care to stimulate the skeletal system.”
However, inventions like Kozol’s peapod give preemies a greater chance of developing normally and in a comforting environment. The therapeutic pod is designed to imitate the secure, stretchy, and warm womb of a pregnant mother.
At the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Special Care Nursery at Rogue Regional Medical Center in Oregon, Kozol is conducting a federally approved study of the pods’ affect on premature infants. The most recent recipient of the benefits of her invention is a little boy named Colton Shaw. Lemon describes Colton’s experience in the peapod this way: “Unless he is being handled by family or care providers, Colton resides 24 hours per day in the pea pod, where he pushes against the elastic material much as he did for 30 weeks in utero.”
She continues, “Pulling the pod’s hood up over Colton’s ears elicits a squall from the 3-pound, 5-ounce boy. But for the most part, the pod is a soothing mechanism as much as a therapeutic tool.”
The pod is an alternative to stimulation and joint compression that many pediatric therapists use to facilitate healthy bone growth. Although these therapies have positive outcomes, preemies are often irritated by the manipulation and unnecessary stress is put on the infant.
Additionally, Lemon said that the pod allowed Colton to stretch his limbs and strain against the confinement at his own pace and comfort level. “A month of this therapy is the goal of Kozol’s study, but some subjects do so well that the hospital discharges them from care before they can finish,” Lemon concluded.
This past year, 10 preemies have completed Kozol’s study, and many more are expected to be beneficiaries of the new pea pod.