September 30, 2014
Cameroon is experimenting with Africa's first mobile system to send a cardiac, or heart signal over a wireless network. The system will give much needed medical assistance to heart patients in rural areas. Cameroonian Arthur Zang invented the device called the Cardiopad. He was just 24 years old when he invented it.
The Cardiopad is a touch screen medical tablet that enables heart examinations to be performed. The results of the tests are sent wirelessly to specialists in other parts of Cameroon who can interpret them.
Simplice Momo is a 55-year-old heart patient in a rural area of Cameroon. He says the Cardiopad saves him time and money. He says it is too costly and difficult for him to see a heart specialist in the city.
"It has been about a year now; they said I had cardiovascular disease. I have been traveling to the city to take treatment. But since they brought this machine, they just put the machine inside me so I no longer travel to the city, which it was expensive for me before."
Cameroon has a population of about 22 million people. But the country only has 40 heart surgeons. Most are in the cities of Douala or Yaounde. Sometimes the heart experts needed can only be found outside the country.
Apolonia Budzee is a nurse at Saint Elizabeth Cardiac Center. She says the device will permit doctors to send patients’ medical information to specialists in Europe.
"You know we do not have a resident surgeon. So we have various teams coming from Italy, from France, Sweden, Germany and other places. So we are not working on a daily basis. We collect the patients and then program and then call the people up to come and operate."
Arthur Zang started the Cardiopad project five years ago. The young computer engineer said he needed more training and $45,000 to develop the device. His family did not have the money. Banks would not give him loans. So he shared his idea on social media. The president of Cameroon, Paul Biya, answered the appeal with money for the project. Mr. Zang also received free online training from an engineering school in India.
"When I decided to design the tablet at the electronic level, I did not have the knowledge because I am basically a computer science engineer. So I decided to learn myself electronics by online video. So I went to the internet and discovered a free education program provided by the Indian Institute of Technology. This is how I learned electronics online."
The Cameroon scientific community has recognized the Cardiopad as extremely effective. The device costs about $4,000. The government of Cameroon has not been able to provide the device to hospitals in need. Most of them lack internet and enough electricity. But the Cardiopad testing at the Bafia Hospital is gaining attention and may get the assistance needed.
Mr. Zang says he has had private investors contact him. But he is more interested in investors who share his vision. That vision is not of money, but of better ways to help improve people’s lives.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Moki Edwin Kindzeka reported this story from Yaoundé. Jonathan Evans wrote it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in this Story
appeal – n. a serious request for help or support
cardiac – adj. of or relating to the heart (For example: She went into cardiac arrest, meaning, her heart stopped beating.)
investors – n. people who use their money to buy a product or stock in a company in order to make a future profit
specialists – n. doctors who deal with health problems that relate to a specific area of medicine