Observer Article

Sunday, Aug 27, 2006

Posted on Tue, May. 30, 2006


Device aims to calm kids with asthma



  • As an emergency room physician, Dr. Craig Corey is often bothered by the cries of children being treated for asthma attacks.

    Already short of breath and scared to death, the children scream and fight when doctors and nurses try to get them to inhale life-saving medicated mist from a nebulizer. As mothers hold them down, kids rear back and scream, arms flailing. Broken teeth and bloody noses are not unheard of.

    Corey -- a descendant of Philo T. Farnsworth, who invented the television -- had an idea.

    He tinkered with an old-fashioned rotary telephone, discarded in his garage.

    He drilled a hole in the mouthpiece and attached a connection to a nebulizer machine.

    Then he took a computer chip from a music-playing Christmas card and fastened it to the earpiece.

    "Most kids aren't afraid of the phone," said Corey. If he could get them to hold the telephone and listen to a cheery song, he thought he could distract them enough to inhale medicine from the mouthpiece without even realizing it.

    That was 14 years ago.

    Today, after many revisions and $175,000 for design and manufacturing, Corey's "Oxyphone" is hitting the market.

    The latest version is dark see-through blue, sleeker and prettier than the early prototype. The mouthpiece has a rotating connector so a child can move around and lie down without unplugging the nebulizer.

    The music has been updated, too.

    Corey, 53, who works at NorthEast Medical Center in Concord, wrote the lyrics and music.

    His daughter, Melissa Corey, 19, sings and plays the flute. Here's an excerpt:

    "Think of breathing deep and slow. That will help the medicine go Down inside to help your wheeze, Stop the coughing and the squeeze."

    Corey uses the Oxyphone on his patients and has asked other parents and nurses to try it, so it's "kid-tested and nurse-approved." Teresa Davis, an emergency room nurse at NorthEast, took one home two years ago for her daughter, Marina White. The 9-year-old has asthma and takes an inhaled steroid every morning during the school year.

    "I liked the music, because it says to breathe," Marina said. "Most kids would like to have it."

    Corey has 1,000 Oxyphones, shipped from Hong Kong, stacked in 20 boxes in his dining room. They cost $44.95 or $49.95, depending on the style. Users must have home nebulizer machines and medicine prescribed by a doctor.

    He hopes they sell. If not, he said, "I'll have a lot of real expensive candleholders."

    Hear the Oxyphone song:



    Karen Garloch: (704) 358-5078;