Friday 29 January 2016, 09:53 | By

Healthcare, but not as we know it

CSL In The News


The recent and sudden loss of three significant British icons has revealed two quite interesting things. First, how many of us look to innovators/provocateurs like Lemmy and David Bowie to help shape our own identity, and second how much the lives of people like Alan Rickman can actually help add perspective to our own.

This was certainly the case when Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie shared the note from palliative care doctor, Dr Mark Taubert, about the manner of Bowie’s death and how it seemed to sum up his continuing influence. In it Dr Taubert wrote; “What you have done in the time surrounding your death has had a profound effect on me and many people I work with.”

So as we continue to understand the impact of their passing, CSL wanted to start this month’s news review with the recent stories which illustrate art’s capacity to help us to communicate, connect throughout illness, and even sometimes aid healing.


The ‘mask’ of war

Post-traumatic stress disorder is said to leave war veterans feeling like they are ‘wearing a mask.’ In an effort to help bridge the gap between thoughts and expression, art therapist Melissa Walker has asked service members suffering from PTSD to make papier-mâché masks, as way to better express themselves.

The program, as recently covered by culture website The Daily Beast, is designed to help veterans come to terms with their experiences by allowing them to express themselves in an ‘unusual and unfamiliar way’.

The results have been so insightful the masks are now being studied at Philadelphia’s Drexel University. What’s more, they show art’s capacity to give people a ‘voice’ when their circumstances might have prevented them from otherwise. And as we are about to see, can even help people step outside of their condition when, for example, recovering from trauma after an accident, recovering from a stroke or living with dementia.


Painting through the pain

In Hawaii, a hospital program is now into its third decade of using art to help people recover having suffered trauma from an accident or recovering from a stroke.

So successful has it been that former patients like Pearl Iwaida continue to use the program even after completing their therapy. Iwaida, who is recovering from a car crash eight years ago said art “takes your mind off of here,” (meaning her left leg, which had broken in three parts). “When you’re doing all this therapy, it’s hard and it’s painful”, she continued, “but you can forget about it down in art.”

Art’s ability to help those in challenging circumstances is then echoed in our recent guest article from Professor Töres Theorell, who explained music’s capacity to help connect with those experiencing dementia.

In it he wrote that music can help, “…the care of patients with dementia in situations that are otherwise difficult to handle for the staff because the patient is disoriented and unable to understand when it is time for cleaning and eating for instance. Instead of cooperating the patient is aggressive. When the staff sing songs that are well-known for the patient he/she might sing with the staff.”

Read the full article. It looks at the issue from so many angles that it is not surprising it helped inform a successful Swedish initiative using modern technology to stream music into homes for older people, a program that is now being trialled in Britain. Speaking of modern technology…


Diagnosing ‘in the field’

According to a recent feature on BBC Future, one woman has made what is being referred to as a real-life ‘tricorder’, a device that could quite possibly revolutionise healthcare for the estimated four billion people on the planet without access to basic healthcare.

Using nano technology, Dr Anita Goel has developed a ‘gene reader’ that can diagnose diseases in real time rather than having to rely on a centralised laboratory, meaning that it can ‘test for things like Ebola in minutes, for a few dollars; tests that previously could have taken months and thousands of dollars’.

Dr Goel states that nano technology like this puts mankind on the ‘verge of a global revolution’, making healthcare less centralised to offer the greatest impact for the greatest number of people.

Combining these kinds of amazing and revolutionary technologies, with the items we carry about us every day, must be the next step. Imagine being alerted by your phone or wearable that something is wrong and then being directed to the correct place for treatment? Relatively straight forward if you’re on Earth at the time…


Healthcare in space

After Britain’s Tim Peake joined the International Space Station, BBC News asked how healthcare benefits from the challenges posed by space travel.

According to the article, US scientists are addressing those challenges with innovations such as using transparent saline-filled domes over wounds, turning robots into ‘space surgeons’, and making medications with much longer shelf lives.

But more simply, says Dr Fred Papali, who has spent time working in emergency wards in hospitals in Haiti and south Sudan, there are lessons to be found in the use of telemedicine, which is essential in space travel.

Dr Papali said; “There are parallels between the isolation of the ISS and some rural areas in low-income countries, where health care services are lacking. In many parts of the world, basic emergency and acute medical facilities just don’t exist. It’s challenging because the doctors there don’t have experience or training… and patients are often clinging on to life with their pinky.”


So once again, it is our ability to talk to one another that often yields the best results. Let’s hope that by the time man does make it to Mars that every corner of the world has access to the internet, even if only to stream ‘the Best of David Bowie’.

Until then, make sure you stay up to date with everything health, tech and creatively minded via the CSL twitter feed.