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Simple device helps doctor deliver babies from a wheelchair

Posted at 7:30 PM, Mar 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 10:44:58-04

Editor's Note: 'Empowering Lives: Stories from Our Colorado' are stories about the challenges the staff at Colorado's renowned Craig Hospital help people overcome every day thanks to the generosity of people like you. The six-week series will culminate in a 'Day of Donation' on Monday, April 8. To learn more about how you can help, visit the 'Empowering Lives: Day of Donation' page to learn more.

LOVELAND, Colo. -- Getting doctors to practice in rural areas of our Colorado can be a challenge, but sometimes those willing to answer that call face challenges themselves.

Dr. Mike Welch wants to be a family physician in Maine. Right now, he’s working at McKee Medical Center in Loveland and will soon head out to Wray to complete his residency for the next couple of years.

He also uses a wheelchair, which can make delivering babies a challenge.

“Not having the core stability, I can’t lean forward to deliver the baby,” Dr. Welch said. “I’d fall forward and that is not the place you want to be when you’re delivering a baby.”

Looking for ways to make procedures like that easier and safer, Dr. Welch turned to the rehab engineering department at Craig Hospital.

“I spent a week down at Craig Rehab Hospital down in Denver working to build this device,” he said, showing off the simple t-bar crated for him by engineer Dave Birkle.

“Just needed a prop,” is how Birkle describes the problem he helped Dr. Welch solve by creating a device that has a base that is anchored under the doctor’s seat cushion that then attaches to a t-shaped ‘car prop’ that can be easily taken in and out as needed.

“It slides in, locks in place and I can lean forward and use all the force that I have to deliver the baby,” Dr. Welch explains.

Working from his own wheelchair, Birkle has been helping patients at Craig for more than 20 years. He says technology like cell phones, tablets and other devices have really changed the playing field.

“Fifteen years ago, it was real expensive to get a house set up,” he said. “Now with Alexa or some of these other units you just talk and it will get what you’re looking for done.”

Physical therapists like Jennifer Hladun say its important to not let an injury define a person’s capabilities.

“There are ways you can work around any injury or impairment to make it absolutely 100 percent possible for these people to do any job that a non-injured human being could do,” Hladun said. “You’re always coming up with ideas and ways, how can you empower these individuals to continue to do the things that they want to do.”

Dr. Welch says the device Birkle created for him will help him with procedures like sutures as well as patient exams. But he says it’s those childbirth moments he is most looking forward to being a part of.

“It’s the miracle of life and I’m really glad I get to have the opportunity to participate in it,” he said.

Many of the programs at Craig Hospital are not covered by insurance. It’s generous people and organizations who make the programs possible. Denver7 & the Craig Foundation are teaming up for 'Empowering Lives: Day of Donation' on Monday, April 8. Click here to learn more about the programs offered at Craig and how you can donate right now.