People paralyzed below the neck now can work on computers with their chin, thanks to a special ‘chin stick’ the Indian Spinal Injury Center (ISIC) here has developed. And it hardly costs Rs 100 ($2.5).
"Besides treatment, ISIC believes in vocational rehabilitation of our patients. The chin stick is just a step in that direction," said Divya Parashar, head of the department of rehabilitation psychology.
The chin stick is made of aluminum with a long finger like pointer, which is used to hit the keyboard. It has an adjustable knob. It is attached to the chin and the head with a detachable strap that goes over the ears.
"The device is a simple and cost effective tool for those paralyzed below neck. At least 20 people have tested it and three software engineers are using it," said Nekram Upadhyay, a rehabilitation engineer at ISIC.
"The cost is less than Rs.100 but it’s a utility device with lifelong validity," Upadhyay told IANS.
Engineers sit with patients, their family members, doctors and psychologists to customize the chin stick, according to the specific needs of each user.
"First, we assess the movement of the patient’s neck, how much he can see and what kind of control he has over his chin. The device is designed accordingly and the keyboard is fixed at an appropriate height.
"Sometimes we tell people to go for a keyboard with bigger keys," Upadhyay explained. "Overall, it takes three to four days to come out with a device."
The ISIC is a private specialty hospital, which has operated since 2000. Heading it is Major (retired) H.P.S. Ahluwalia, who himself is wheelchair bound.
Ahluwalia has scaled the Mount Everest.
Parashar said tetraplegic patients, whose all four limbs are paralyzed, complain about their plight and are very suicidal. If they are educated, it becomes very difficult for them to accept life after a major spinal cord injury.
"I had a 26-year-old patient who was a computer engineer. He had sustained major spinal cord injury in an accident. During his rehabilitation I found him depressed. But he would get excited at the sight of a computer. I am sure such patients will find the chin stick a life line," she explained.