Niagara Gazette

November 19, 2012

Local man develops cell phone app that helps with cystic fibrosis treatment

BY JOE OLENICK
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — Every single day, Jason and Meaghan Phipps have to perform chest physical therapy for their 4-month-old son Mason.

Doing so involves tapping 10 areas around Mason’s chest and back, each for three minutes. Mason has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes thick, sticky mucus to build up in the lungs, digestive tract and other areas of the body. It is one of the most common chronic lung diseases in children.

Performing the chest PT breaks up the mucus around the lungs and other organs, allowing Mason to breathe. But the chest therapy can be a challenging task to administer, with keeping track of time while holding the child upright. Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

“Obviously, with a little baby, it is kind of a challenge to watch the clock and do the PT, then he’s crying and you’re wondering, ‘was that three minutes,’” Jason said.

There are timers for chest physical therapy, some available as cellphone applications, or apps as they are more commonly known as. But none of them were free, except for very basic ones that weren’t very helpful.

So, Jason, a web designer, created his own app, free and available to anyone who wants it. His employer, Gelia, offered a programmer to help. It’s the first one he has ever created.

The app gives the user a choice for different alerts and tracks time for each position on the body, while allowing for rest breaks. The alerts can be that of a dog barking or other softer sounds for children. At the end of the entire period, the app has a thank you screen with the child’s name on it.

The Phipps family has been using the app on a regular basis. Feedback from those who have downloaded the app has been excellent too.

“It has gone great,” Jason said.

The app, available for the iPhone and iPad, has been uploaded to the Apple Store and can be found by searching “chest PT.” People have downloaded it from all over, including Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom.

About 30,000 people in the United States have cystic fibrosis. Commonly, people are diagnosed within the first year of their lives.

Seventy years ago, those with cystic fibrosis usually did not survive past the first few months. Now, life expectancy has improved dramatically, the average life span being close to 40.

“They’re are making a lot of great strides,” Jason said.

As a result of the cystic fibrosis, Mason doesn’t have a working pancreas and his stomach doesn’t have the necessary enzymes. He is given the needed enzymes through a spoonful of applesauce before a bottle.

Gelia works with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which is located right across the street from the firm in Williamsville. Gelia handles the group’s public relations needs, while Jason has presented to area schools. He wants to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis any way he can.

“A lot of people don’t know what it is. I didn’t know.”