Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

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May 27, 2008
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Robotic woman gives birth in Glenwood

GLENWOOD SPRINGS " Noelle laid back on a bed at Valley View Hospital, ready to bring her son into the world.

"Noelle, you're doing well. Your baby is going to be OK," said Jane Vincent, a nurse.

Noelle is no ordinary woman. She's a robotic woman. She gave birth to her robotic son, Hal, a good six times or more Thursday afternoon.

The hospital says it was the first in Colorado to acquire Gaumard Scientific's S575 Noelle with Newborn Hal two weeks ago. The pair are the company's latest birth simulator, used for training purposes. They cost $37,995.

"He's starting to descend," said Carol Bagen, another nurse, preparing for one of Hal's deliveries.

Hal emerged slowly, pushed by a motor hidden beneath Noelle's stomach. He cried softly. Bagen toweled him off and handed him over to a pediatric nurse.

"Congratulations Noelle. Good job," Bagen said.

Hospital staff members are instructed to speak directly to Noelle to make the simulation as realistic as possible.

Gaumard's engineers also helped with the details. Hal's tiny ribcage expands and contracts with his breathing. His arms and legs move.

Hal's face turns blue when he's having trouble breathing. It goes back to normal when he's properly treated with a breathing apparatus. Nurses can feel him and Noelle for pulses, and can administer injections to either patient.

The birth training starts from a preprogrammed scenario. Instructors control Noelle and Hal with a computer to branch off from the scenario and react to what's being done to them. They can change things like either patient's rates and rhythms for breathing and heart beat, which could mean Noelle needs a C-section or Hal needs resuscitation, or even a much more rare complication.

"What we want people to do is practice, practice, practice, so when it happens with a real patient they're very comfortable," said Laurale Cross, director of the hospital's Family Birthplace.

The birth training is videotaped so participants can later analyze their performance and discuss improvements. Noelle and Hal are especially helpful to prepare for more rare problems that hospital staff won't often see in real life, Vincent said. The simulation can also help promote teamwork.

"It's a lot more than just seeing it up on a board," Bagen said.

Among Noelle's many features are a programmable hemorrhage that uses simulated blood and catheterization with flow of fake urine. As her uterus is massaged, it shrinks, and an instructor can reduce the bleeding. She can undergo vertex, breech and C-section deliveries.

Vincent said the hospital may use an emergency paging system to call out teams to respond to Noelle and Hal. Noelle and Hal could potentially be used with EMTs, nurses in training and local agencies. Noelle and Hal could be used in an ambulance and controlled wirelessly from another vehicle.

A grant from Colorado Trust paid for almost all of the simulator and associated equipment, Cross said. The Danciger Charitable Trust Foundation paid for Vincent, Bagen and Lanea Orgill to travel to Gaumard's headquarters in Florida for training.

Cross said Noelle and Hal can get free updated software and scenarios via the Internet.

"It's so amazing," Cross said. "The opportunities for it are just almost endless."

pfowler@postindependent.com


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The Aspen Times Updated May 27, 2008 03:25PM Published May 27, 2008 11:58AM Copyright 2008 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.