116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — One Iowa teen has always enjoyed video games, but after a long hospital stay, being able to play again has been “an escape” from the monotony of hospital life.
Lotus Friedman is a 13-year-old from Dubuque who is paralyzed from the waist down after a skiing accident earlier this year. Limited finger mobility also meant she was unable to play her favorite video game — until the innovation lab at St. Luke’s Hospital help built her an adaptive keyboard.
“It was really nice,” Lotus said last week. “I’ve been in a hospital for 118 days now, and it’s just been therapy, dinner, sleep. Then you wake up and do the same thing the next day. It’s nice to have this device and to have something to do besides sit around my hospital room.”
The innovation lab at St. Luke’s is a maker space located within the hospital that provides tools and resources for staff and patients. Since it opened in November 2019, 377 projects have been completed within the space, St. Luke’s officials say, not counting the “many more” in the works.
Lotus sustained an acute spinal cord injury after a serious skiing accident on Jan. 18 shattered her C5 vertebra. She spent 50 days at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital before she was transferred to St. Luke’s Hospital for rehabilitation, where she works nearly eight hours a day, five days a week to build strength and regain movement.
After weeks in the Cedar Rapids hospital, she was discharged from St. Luke’s last week and moved to a rehabilitation center in Omaha, Neb.
“I am in awe of my daughter and how well she has handled everything,” said Billie Friedman, Lotus’s mom. “She has just risen above and adapted so well. She’s more resilient than I thought she would be.”
Lotus never lost sensation in her legs and arms after the accident but she is unable to move anything below her waist. For her fingers, the injury means she doesn’t have the fine motor skills needed to use a gaming keyboard to play a video game.
Lotus built her first computer with her dad at age 10, and by age 12, she discovered a love of playing video games. She said she would play every day after dinner.
Dan Wolfe, a patient care technician with St. Luke’s physical medicine and rehabilitation, was the first to bring the idea of building an adaptive keyboard to the innovation lab.
"The whole story is that we have incredible front line health care workers here who go above and beyond their normal role to provide unique opportunities for their patients,“ said Rose Hedges, St. Luke’s nursing research and innovation coordinator with the lab. ”Dan did that. He worked very hard to make this happen for her.“
Wolfe, who has been a frequent user of the lab, said these kinds of projects help patients become more independent, which helps their long-term recovery.
“It makes them excited and it makes them happy to do things independently,” Wolfe said.
Nick Dodds, fabrication fellow at the innovation lab, worked on the project for about five weeks before creating the finished product. The adaptive keyboard relies on two U-shaped structures that have buttons programmed to 16 different keys that Lotus can toggle using elbow and wrist movements.
Lotus said there has been a learning curve in using this new gaming keyboard to play the video games she so frequently played before the accident.
“It’s not what it used to be,” she said. “I can’t just jump on and play like I normally would. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s also nice to be doing something normal.”
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