For Ukrainian babies, the Bay Area group sends portable incubators

Two hundred portable incubators, made using technology co-invented by a Stanford MBA more than 10 years ago, are on track to provide life-saving warmth to babies born prematurely in bomb shelters and hospitals in Ukraine.

Sleeping bags like incubators, which do not require a constant source of electricity, are being directed to Poland, where they will be donated to UNICEF, the World Health Organization and other nonprofit organizations. nonprofit working in Ukraine, said Jane Chen, of San Francisco- and co-founder of Santa Cruz-based Embrace Global.

The nonprofit manufactures and distributes the incubators to clinics and hospitals in developing countries, but is now turning its attention to helping babies born in Ukraine’s war zones. Weeks of bombardment by Russian forces have destroyed cities and caused a humanitarian crisis that has endangered the health care of newborns, especially the growing number of children born prematurely due to the deep and relentless stress of the war.

Chen said it was vital to help these babies in Ukraine “on the very first day of their lives”. Embrace Global has also launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise an additional $600,000 to send 3,000 incubators to Ukraine.

Jane Chen, co-founder of Embrace Global, holds a newborn baby in one of Embrace Innovations’ portable incubators in India. (Courtesy of Embrace Innovations)

At the start of the war, about 260,000 women in Ukraine were pregnant, according to the United Nations Population Fund. About 1,000 give birth every day, and more than 100 of those babies will need some kind of neonatal intensive care, Chen said.

The New York Times described women giving birth in cold, decrepit basements or in subway stations used as bomb shelters. As the bombs rain down above, the women have no electricity, running water or access to vital medical equipment.

Premature babies born during the war are at particular risk of death or lifelong complications, Dr. Jeanne Conry, president of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, told The New York Times. Premature babies are more likely to have respiratory, neurological and digestive problems later.

Regardless of other complications, keeping premature babies warm “is critical,” Chen said. Premature and low birth weight babies typically have low body fat and may be too immature to regulate their own body temperature, even in a warm environment.

Zambian nurses receive training in the use of Embrace Global portable incubators. (Courtesy of Embrace Global)

The Embrace incubator can provide this heat in places such as war zones, where a high-tech incubator would not be practical. The portable incubator can maintain a constant temperature for up to eight hours, using a “Smart Pak” which is heated in boiling water. Blanket-like warmers also allow mothers to have as much skin-to-skin contact with their babies as possible.

“We mainly need transportable incubators for these babies who are in intensive care,” a nurse and manager at the perinatal center in Kharkiv, Ukraine, told Fox Business News. “They are extremely dependent on this equipment.”

Embrace incubators also don’t need any special expertise to use. Chen said they send training videos with the incubators. “Anyone can learn to use them,” Chen said. “They don’t need stable electricity and can be used anywhere.”

In 2008, while completing her MBA at Stanford, Chen teamed up with three other Stanford graduate students – Panicker, Linus Liang and Naganand Murty – to design the device.

Chen and his colleagues wanted to take up the challenge of reducing the number of deaths each year among the 1 million premature newborns in developing countries who lack access to life-saving medical technology. They have created a baby incubator that costs less than 1% of a traditional incubator, which in the United States costs at least $20,000.

Since its launch, Embrace has saved over 350,000 babies in 22 countries. The organization has also received support from a number of high-profile individuals and organizations, including former President Obama, Beyoncé, and Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, who have invested in the organization’s efforts. organization to increase global distribution.

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