Our client was in the final stages of MND where he had lost most of his ability to move, and when he wanted a drink, he was having to be fed cup to mouth. However, he had a bit of head movement and a bit of hand movement – and wanted to be be able to take a drink unaided from wherever he happened to be sitting.
Engineers Ian Midgley and Brian Wood created a drinking station for use wherever it was needed.
The flow rate of the pump needed to be very low to minimise any choking risk, so we identified a small 12V peristaltic dosing pump typically used for aquariums, for just a few pounds. A peristaltic pump doesn’t pump directly – it uses rollers in the pump head to squeeze the fluid through a tube so there can be no cross-contamination between the pump and the fluid. The tube is food-grade silicone and approx 4mm O/D, 2mm I/D.
This resulted in the sort of flow you might get if slowly squeezing a pipette – more a dribble than a flow – but ideally suited for the purpose as MND often affects ability to swallow.
A reversing switch was added to the pump to help with cleaning, and four methods of powering the pump were provided. Mains adapter, rechargeable battery pack, dry cell pack, and a car adapter. A Jelly Bean disability switch was mounted on helicopter pilot’s knee board to allow the client to operate the pump.
A shelf was added to a cheap microphone stand off ebay, and provided a handy platform for use. Instructions on cleaning were included for carers.
Our client was able to drink unaided right to the end.