41-year-old Rajlakshmi Borthakur is an IT enthusiast and healthcare product innovator. Her knowledge of technology and science resulted in the Government of India and the UN to recognise her as a woman transforming India. She created a device that could save the lives of scores of people living with epilepsy.
Intrigued? Read on to find out more.
It was the need of her beloved son—Tejas that propelled Borthakur to delve into the field of neurology. Tejas was born in 2011, and sadly, from a rather young age, he started having epileptic seizures. While Tejas’s condition was stable at birth, the situation quickly worsened, and he began suffering from full-blown seizures that required immediate medical attention.
As a parent and primary caregiver, this situation was not just unnerving but was also causing a great deal of anguish to Borthakur. The need to help her son prompted this mother to work toward finding a solution to the problem.
What did Borthakur do?
Borthakur slogged for three years to find a way to give her enough lead time to get her son to the hospital for treatment. With the core idea in her mind, Borthakur attempted to create a prototype to detect epilepsy early. She roped in the help of a group of people who worked together to come up with T Jay—an early epilepsy-attack detection device.
Speaking to The Better India, she says, “TJay is a wearable device for those who suffer from epilepsy episodes.”
“The device helps in collecting information from the palm of the person wearing it, and the goal is to provide predictions before an epileptic attack.”
“Apart from this, we are also able to do long term monitoring of patients by which doctors can assess how they are faring with the administered medicines.”
The device tracks brain activities, vital signs, physical activities, stress and sleep patterns to predict future health risks, helping in early intervention.
Initially, her efforts were confined to just understanding the markers of epilepsy via bio-medical sensors. She also tried to figure out ways to provide alerts to caregivers. Her efforts brought like-minded people together from different fields. IT engineers, data scientists, developers, and medical researchers formed the team. This small group of people had a passion for making the lives of people living with epilepsy better. And thus, their combined endeavours found a name—Terrablue XT, a company dedicated to inventing accessible solutions in the field of healthcare.
Core research area
Borthakur elaborates that one of their core research areas is sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). “Currently, world-wide, there is a lot of research and debate going on about why there are so many deaths due to epilepsy.
Epilepsy itself does not kill but the underlying effects of the condition leads to this outcome.
Therefore, to be able to inform the doctor in advance of such a scenario, is something very important to us.”
About 120 patients at NIMHANS in Bengaluru have so far tested the device, and various doctors have also come on-board to use the data that is being collected to monitor the patients, says Borthakur.
Borthakur’s educational qualification made it extremely difficult for her to switch to this field. She says, “It was undoubtedly an uphill task. There were so many parameters and regulations that I had to take into consideration while working on this device. I had absolutely no idea about how the medical field functioned, so I had to start from scratch.”
In terms of a challenge or a low point that really hit her hard, she says, “There was a time when I had no money and having borrowed to get this product going meant that I had various creditors knocking on my door and even threatening my family and me. That threat was something that shook me up.”
Borthakur has had to go through various funding issues and says that the journey up until now has been extremely hard on her. What keeps her going is the knowledge that her solution will be beneficial for people with epilepsy, and they may have a better shot at life than her son Tejas, who has several developmental issues because of his condition. The fact that early detection and treatment may mean a world of difference to people with epilepsy is a great motivator for Borthakur.
“I get to see how our device impacts our users’ lives as we do our research with them. The fact that a prediction is possible with this device is truly a high that I cherish,” she says.
The Government of India has recognised the efforts put in by Borthakur and her company. TJay has also won several awards, including the Digital India Challenge. She also has the distinction of being recognised by the United Nations and the Government of India as one of 12 women who are transforming India.
With over 55 million people in the world suffering from epilepsy, innovations like this will certainly go a long way in making life a bit easier.
In conclusion, Borthakur says, “What I have learnt by working on this device is that I could not only improve the life of my son but of millions around the world.”
For more details about the product, you could visit the website here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)