Custom Chairs Help Toddlers | God's World News

Custom Chairs Help Toddlers

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    Elijah Jack looks up from his mobility chair at his home in New Roads, Louisiana. Tulane University students built the chair. (AP/Gerald Herbert)
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    Biomedical engineering students build the mobility chairs. (Sabree Hill/Tulane University via AP)
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    Elijah Jack wheels through his home in his mobility chair. (AP/Gerald Herbert)
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    Crystal Jack holds her son, Elijah. (AP/Gerald Herbert)
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    Heather Hampton helps her 18-month-old daughter, Freya Baudoin, into her new mobility chair at the Children’s Hospital New Orleans Rehabilitation Center in Metairie, Louisiana. (AP/Gerald Herbert)
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    Tulane University students display a finished chair. (Sabree Hill/Tulane University via AP)
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In 2023, Tulane University biomedical engineering students spent time using laser cutters, 3-D printers, drills, and sewing equipment. They built and adapted wheelchairs for children with disabilities.

Getting around is a challenge for 19-month-old Elijah Jack. Elijah’s legs are malformed.

To help children like Elijah, Tulane students partner with the nonprofit MakeGood. Together, they design and produce chairs to help toddlers with special needs build independence and strength—and for some, preparation for a real wheelchair.

MakeGood is the New Orleans area coordinator for Israeli nonprofit TOM Global. TOM stands for Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for “repairing the world.” TOM tries to fulfill needs of people with disabilities and limitations.

Jesus displayed His power to repair as He ministered to children and people with physical difficulties. His followers can see the value in helping children today overcome problems.

MakeGood director Noam Platt says insurance companies usually don’t cover the cost of children’s wheelchairs unless there’s proof a youngster can use one well. TOM’s wheelchairs help “create that evidence,” Platt says.

At about $200, TOM’s mobility chairs cost much less than most pediatric wheelchairs or electric wheelchairs. Patients receive them for free.

The chairs’ design—which looks and feels more like a toy than hospital equipment—originated with TOM Global, Platt says. The non-medical-looking form is a plus for pint-sized patients.

Tulane students modify for the specific needs of children receiving the chairs. The students apply padding and safety straps to some chairs. Others need wider straps or a push bar at the back. One patient required space behind the chair for breathing equipment.

Recent chairs got bumper upgrades. That add-on came after parents reported their furniture—and their feet—taking hits as children became faster at chair-driving.

About a year ago, Elijah received a new rolling chair. His was one of the first batch of chairs delivered to pediatric patients. His kid-centric wheelchair offers new independence.

“He loves his chair,” says Crystal Jack, Elijah’s mom. “I get a lot of things done because I know in his chair, he’s safe.”

Many students had no idea how their wheelchairs would affect the lives of children in their community.

Platt hopes the chairs can be made in high schools and colleges across the country—and as they are made, he hopes they ignite “a lifelong passion” for problem-solving. He says, “Once you see . . . the scope of the problems, . . . you can’t really ignore them.”

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. — 1 John 3:18

Why? Helping others is part of loving. It is a privilege to participate in projects that help others.

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