Molly Johnson says she’s no scientist, but realized the importance of insulin pumps firsthand when her diabetic daughter, Sarah, began her own struggle with diabetes.
Sarah was diagnosed with Childhood diabetes as a toddler and went on the insulin pump at the age of 3. The pump works to keep blood sugar low by feeding insulin to the bloodstream through a thin plastic tube. But when Johnson saw that her daughter’s blood sugar levels were going up instead of down, she was told that air bubbles in the pump tubing were keeping the insulin from getting through.
“As (parents of) a new patient, we didn’t know that,” said Johnson.
Years later, her daughter is now 14, and Johnson, a financial analyst at RIT, came up with an award-winning idea to prevent this complication from hurting others with the disease.
The idea? Make tubing which changes color based upon the contents of the tubing, clearly identifying the presence of any insulin-blocking air bubbles. While scrolling through her email one day, she saw an announcement from the organization Diabetes Mine for its international Design Challenge.
She soon decided to enter her own idea by submitting a short video. Although she’d had the idea for using colors in an insulin pump mind for a long time, she didn’t expect it to earn any recognition.
But after several months of waiting, she found out she’d won the “Most Creative” award and a $2,500 prize, beating out entries from prestigious scientific institutions including Johns Hopkins and MIT. Each entry was judged by a panel of health care professionals.
“It was a fluke because I never thought I’d win,” she said with a laugh.
While she doesn’t intend to build and market the pump itself, she is looking into a way to patent the design so a scientist in the industry can use her idea to help other families touched by diabetes.
“To see my name, it was one of the neatest things that’s ever happened to me,” she said.