In 2015, Virtue Oboro, the founder of Tiny Hearts Technologies almost lost her first child to the illness, neonatal jaundice (NNJ). A common situation among newborns, it reportedly occurs in 50% of babies reaching full term, while occurring in 80% of preterm babies.
It is caused by an excess of bilirubin in the body, which is produced when red blood cells are broken down. Bilirubin is processed by the liver. And in the case of a baby whose liver is not fully developed, bilirubin ends up not being processed quickly enough, leaving the body with more than it can handle. This turns the skin and white parts of the eyes yellow and could have severe consequences such as brain damage if left untreated.
Babies diagnosed with Neonatal Jaundice have to go through phototherapy (light treatment). This is a process where special light waves are absorbed by the baby’s skin and bloodstream, allowing the breakdown of the present bilirubin into by-products that can then be excreted through their systems.
In Oboro’s case, when her baby was diagnosed, the hospital had no available phototherapy units as all were in use. And when they did get one for her baby, there was a power outage that was not resolved immediately. Although it was later resolved and her baby was well again, the event inspired the new mom to find a solution for other babies. Hence Crib A’Glow.
A Solar Powered Phototherapy Unit
After research and consultations with necessary specialists, Oboro and her Tiny Hearts team were able to come up with a mobile solar-powered phototherapy unit. Now this solves the two issues that bedevils the treatment of Neonatal Jaundice.
Since it’s solar powered, the unreliable power supply that affects majority of Nigerians is no issue for the unit to function and save lives. The unit can also be disassembled, moved to needed locations and re-assembled easily. This solves the problem of unavailability, making it an ideal solution especially for the rural areas where access to such treatments are not readily available.
The units can be sold to hospitals or rented out to hospitals with an urgent need. Each unit costs N150,000 while rentals come at a cost of N3,000 (for 24 hours). And a good number of the units are being used in hospitals in Bayelsa and Abuja.
Her company, Tiny Hearts Technologies has also embarked on a project called the “Yellow Alert” to sensitize mothers about Neonatal Jaundice.
A report by Nigeria HealthWatch, says that the startup has since inception saved over 1250 babies through the use of its Crib A’Glow units. As a social venture, Crib A’Glow has been recognised and received grants from Diamond Bank’s BET6, Ashoka and other private investors to help get the units into more hospitals
The most recent is the $50,000 in equity-free funding from the Champions of Science Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0. This will be used to scale the startup and allow it have an impact on 1 million babies in 2 years.
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