Alert Bay teen Lyra Fletcher was a finalist in a Youth Innovation Showcase, hosted remotely this week (June 10).
The showcase is put on by the Science Fair Foundation of B.C. with winners receiving $5,000 to further their innovations. Winners in each age category happened to have medically focused designs, although this was not a requirement. This marks the second year of what the Science Fair Foundation has confirmed will be an annual event, open for students in B.C. and Yukon.
Fletcher’s innovation is a self-administering naloxone injection, designed to be worn on the user’s upper arm. According to Fletcher’s research, two-thirds of opioid overdose deaths occur when users are alone, thus making the only solutions currently available – the naloxone injection kit and a nasal spray – useless in most overdose cases since they require a second person to administer.
Fletcher’s design would measure oxygen saturation levels, a key indicator of when someone is entering an overdose. A healthy saturation level is 94 per cent, with risk of hypoxia (oxygen deprivation) beginning when the saturation level drops below 86 per cent.
The device will trigger a naloxone injection if the wearer’s oxygen saturation hits 90 per cent or lower, along with a text alert and loud vocal warnings.
Fletcher did not win, but was one of five finalists in the 12-15-year-old category. There were 67 entries and 14 finalists.
At present, she’s working on assembling a prototype. The injection mechanism is finished, and she’s waiting on other pieces to arrive to assemble all the parts. The next big step is to write the code, which she doesn’t expect to be very complicated.
Fletcher’s father is the pharmacist in Alert Bay, which is where she first remembers seeing an advertisement for naloxone training. Her father explained the process, and she questioned the fact that you have to fill the needle with medication manually. As she researched more, she learned how many people tend to be alone when they’re using opioids — 63 per cent — and decided she could come up with a smarter option.
“[Alert Bay] is very small, so when someone does die from an overdose, it ripples through. The one school here closes sometimes for funerals, and I just don’t like seeing people hurt. I don’t want that to happen anymore.”
She added that with the COVID-19 crisis, opioid deaths are on the rise.
“They’re saying this could be the highest month of deaths, so [this design] could really help people.”
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