Friday 17 January 2020

Delivery: Coombe brings first 'robo-baby' into the world

Post-natal classes: Consultant neonatologist Dr Pamela O’Connor and Professor Sharon Sheehan, Master of the Coombe, demonstrate how robo-baby ‘Paul’ will help students practise their life-saving skills. PHOTO: FINBARR O’ROURKE
Post-natal classes: Consultant neonatologist Dr Pamela O’Connor and Professor Sharon Sheehan, Master of the Coombe, demonstrate how robo-baby ‘Paul’ will help students practise their life-saving skills. PHOTO: FINBARR O’ROURKE

Allison Bray

The Coombe Women and Infant's University Hospital has 'delivered' the world's first premature 'robo-baby'.

The computerised baby simulator, called 'Paul', resembles a realistic doll-like version of a real-life premature baby.

Thanks to a year-long fundraising campaign by the Friends of the Coombe charity - which raised €75,000 for the project - the Dublin maternity teaching hospital will be the first in Ireland to use what it terms the 'premature baby clinical skills simulator' or simply 'The Paul Simulator'.

'Paul' will be put to work early in the new year, when a team of trainee clinicians at the hospital will use him to practise the intricate skills needed to diagnose and treat complications associated with premature births. These include oxygen deprivation, breathing problems and early-onset sepsis.

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"It really helps clinicians to understand how delicate it is to work with premature babies," said neonatal consultant Dr Pamela O'Connor.

"It looks like a baby and feels like a baby," she said.

Paul, according to the hospital, is "the world's most advanced 'real life' and 'real time' premature baby clinical skills simulator and the most accurate recreation of a pre-term baby born in the 27th week of pregnancy available today".

He measures just 35cms long and weighs less than a kilo - about the weight of an average-sized pineapple.

He was 'conceived' by a team of experts in the fields of neonatology - the study of newborn babies - alongside software developers and mechanical engineers.

It even used a Hollywood special effects design team specialising in the field of animatronics - the use of computers to make replicas of natural-looking movements by animals and humans.

"The 'Paul' simulator is an absolute game-changer when it comes to looking after extremely premature babies," said the charity's chairwoman, Ailbhe Gilvarry.

"Not only does 'Paul' look and feel like a real premature baby, but he can also be programmed to react as a real, very unwell premature baby would, providing the best simulated training opportunities available," she said.

The hospital's Master, Professor Sharon Sheehan, said that The Coombe will be the first hospital in Ireland to use the simulator as part of its clinical skills training and development programme.

Irish Independent

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