Notre Dame Students design to save lives

Author: Maureen McFadden, WNDU

The following was written/reported by Maureen McFadden and first published on WNDU's website:


When you think of graphic design majors you might not immediately think of how they challenge themselves to affect positive social change.

That's the mission of a senior design class at Notre Dame.

A class whose projects have taken them to Haiti and soon South Africa, and another recent project that was inspired by the death of 18-year-old Amanda Abbiehl, a young Granger girl just about their age.

These graphic design majors in Professor Robert Sedlack's class at Notre Dame are getting a lesson Tuesday on pain pumps and how the addition of monitors to follow breathing and respiration may save lives.

Professor Sedlak says this latest project was inspired when students heard about the death of Amanda Abbiehl almost two years ago, “One of my favorite definitions of design generally is taking an existing situation and turning it into a preferred situation.”

With experts on hand Tuesday, Sedlak's students were hearing more from the companies who design the monitors and people working in health care. For a young Granger girl who died at just 18, they could relate too.

Professor Sedlak discusses how Amanda’s parents are just as much as an inspiration as Amanda was, “Not only Amanda, but her parents, I mean her parents are inspirations for this project, I mean their cause is to not let it happen to anybody else.”

Michael Wong is with the Physician Patient Alliance for Health & Safety, an advocacy group for improving patient safety.

He told students Tuesday there is growing evidence monitoring a patient's respiration with monitors while on pain pumps save lives.

Michael Wong, PPAHS, explains where the machine is most commonly used, “It's widely used in standard equipment in operating rooms, outside of operating rooms it is not standard equipment.”

Wong says both veteran affairs and the country's oldest combined hospitals, Saint Joseph's Candler in Savannah, have proof, “Over eight years they've had, they've been error free for the last eight years and that's incredible.”

Tammy Hasler is a Clinical Nurse at Saint Francis Hospital outside Indianapolis where in 2007 they implemented continuous monitoring for people on pain pumps.

Hasler describes how the machine helps the patients with continuous use, “If the patient has a event where they have decrease in ventilation it actually alarms and lets the nurses know they need to go in and check the patient at the bedside.”

Like St. Joseph Candler in Savannah Tammy says their hospital has had no respiratory events since adopting the new system.

Seniors Jenaa Spizzirri and KC Youm are excited they may be part of change and also help support Brian and Cindy Abbiehl, whose foundation, "A Promise to Amanda" is working toward the same goal.

Spizzirri explains where they are in their study, “We're kind of ending our research phase as of right now and we want seeing what we can do and how we can help implement this goal.

Youm describes that it is hard to see himself doing something different, “It's difficult for us to see ourselves outside the world of design, the impact that we can have on the world.”

One of the experts on hand Tuesday said that hospital in Savannah, was able to avoid 500 adverse events involving pain pumps since adding the new CO2 monitors, possibly saving lives, and the hospital saved about $4 million after an investment of $2.5 million.

We'll continue to follow the progress of the Notre Dame design students and also the Abbiehl's foundation, A Promise to Amanda.