Car Mechanic's Birthing Invention May Be a Lifesaver

Jorge Odón isn't the first auto mechanic to ever come up with an idea for a new product, but he's probably the first one in his field to invent a medical device meant to save a baby's life at birth.

His idea was first hatched in 2007, when Odón, of Argentina, watched a YouTube video on how to retrieve a cork from inside a wine bottle. The trick worked by stuffing a plastic bag inside the bottle and blowing into it. As the bag expanded, it trapped the cork and the demonstrator was able to pull out the bag, along with the cork. That night, Odón was struck with inspiration during a dream: What if the same extracting method could be used during childbirth for babies stuck in the birth canal? According to an interview Odón, 59, gave The New York Times this week, he then woke up his wife and excitedly shared his vision, to which she replied that said he "was crazy and went back to sleep."

Odón was unable to comment to Yahoo Shine, but, he recounts in the Times story, he was undeterred and got to work shorty after, building a prototype in his kitchen, using a glass jar in place of a womb, his daughter’s doll for the baby, and a fabric sleeve and bag that he asked his wife to sew. The contraption, called the Odón Device, works like this: A doctor fits a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve and fits it around the baby’s head. The bag is then inflated, allowing it to grip on the baby head, pulling until it’s emerged from the birth canal.

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The goal of his invention is two-fold: For women in underdeveloped countries who don’t have access to Cesarean sections, the device could help safely bring their babies into the world. It could also supplement forceps and vacuum extractors in cases where newer doctors are untrained to use them.

Mario Merialdi, M.D., the World Health Organization’s chief coordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health, tells Yahoo Shine that back in 2008, Odón pitched him the device during a lunch break at a medical conference in Brazil and Merialdi was impressed with what he heard. Soon after, Merialdi arranged preliminary testing on 30 Argentine women at the Iowa Simulation Center for Patient Safety and Clinical Skills at Des Moines University. 

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“The next phase will begin in the next few weeks,” Merialdi says. “First, we’ll test the device in a non-controlled study of 100 more Argentine women experiencing normal deliveries; after that, we’ll conduct a two-year controlled study on 160 women experiencing obstructed labor in South Africa, China, and India.” There will also be a larger, randomized trial to test the device’s effectiveness and safety.

And now, the product making it to market is finally within Odon's reach. Becton, Dickinson and Company, a medical technology firm based in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, has agreed to manufacture the device, “provided it passes the full range of safety and ethical measures,” Gary M. Cohen, the company’s executive vice president for global health tells Yahoo Shine. “That process could take roughly three years.”

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