Family launches cancer treating idea |

Family launches cancer treating idea

Post Independent/Kelley Cox

While tinkering with PVC pipes, Pat Bohman wondered how she could help kids with cancer and life-threatening diseases at Children’s Hospital in Denver.Then, just as if an I’ve-got-a-plan light bulb appeared over her head, she thought of an invention – a marshmallow launcher.That’s right, a marshmallow launcher.At first glance it seems like a toy, a glorified spit-wad shooter to fling mini marshmallows at unsuspecting victims. But there is much more to the 12-inch, plastic pipe than first hits the eye.The Marshmallow Launcher is also a medical device – equipped to help children with respiratory problems and even cancer.

“It’s turned into a respiratory device. We make little pictures of a cancer cell or a typical fungus that a kid is trying to fight and they make a poster and put it on the wall like a target so they have got a visual weapon too,” said Bohman, a Glenwood Springs resident. “It works for stress release too.”The evolution of the LauncherThe idea struck Bohman after witnessing her 11-year-old daughter Kelsey battle through leukemia. Helping her go through chemotherapy and bone-marrow transplants, Bohman was lucky enough to see her daughter beat cancer. Kelsey has now been cancer free for 5 1/2 years, but Bohman wanted to help other children.During the Christmas season of 2002, Bohman wanted to make gifts for the patients at Children’s Hospital, so she started to construct the Marshmallow Launcher. Someone donated plastic to make the Launchers, and through trial and error, Bohman kept finding ways to make the Launchers more useable through her assembly line in her basement, where they are still constructed. From the moment Children’s Hospital first got the Launchers, they were a success.”We took it up there to the oncology floor (at Children’s in Denver) and the kids just loved it. So we were there for one of Kelsey’s appointments and one of her doctors said ‘Well it’s a toy, but it has another use too,'” Bohman said. “So they started using it to exercise these kids’ lungs. Going off of that, I thought, ‘If I don’t doing anything with this, I need to be slapped.'”Now, Bohman distributes them to Children’s Hospital and Presbyterian St. Lukes in Denver, as well as others in Oregon and Washington.

About 5,000 Launchers were manufactured in the last year alone and doctors and child life specialists at Children’s Hospital are hooked on them.”I think it provides medical benefits, but in a really fun way,” said Tommi McHugh, a child life specialist at Children’s Hospital. “We take them outside and blow marshmallows at statues, all kinds of things and it really is a great diversion.”Although Bohman is still developing the project, her goal is to get the Marshmallow Launchers into hospitals across the country. Launching into the medical fieldOutside of her full-time job at Mountain Pest Control and between assembling the Launchers, Bohman spends her time meeting with lawyers at Kraft trying to strike up a deal on getting marshmallows, talking with engineers and doctors on how to improve the Launcher, brainstorming with investors on how to run the business portion of the project and doing research on how make the devices apply to different kinds of patients.

They are already replacing some devices.”As a child life specialist, I am asked to provide bubbles and pinwheels to get kids to take deeper breaths and it quickly became clear to the doctors and myself that they had to take really big breaths to use the Launchers, and that they used them more than the other techniques because they are way more fun,” McHugh said.One way Bohman is hoping to improve upon her idea is to put a flow meter on the side on the Launchers so doctors can measure respiratory progress while kids shoot marshmallows. Whatever kinds of ailments it can assist, Bohman just hopes the Launcher can help as many things as possible.”We are in hopes that it will evolve into something standard in a hospital,” Bohman said.Locally, Bohman tries to help as many families in the valley as possible. When she hears of a family with a child suffering from a life-threatening disease, she sets up booths to sell the shooters. Targeting them toward kids, and even adults who can use the Launchers for “interoffice communication,” Bohman sells them for $8.75 and then donates the money to the families. She also sells them at where the proceeds go back to the hospitals. Launching into the future

Constructing the Marshmallow Launchers is only the beginning of Bohman’s grand scheme. The first step will be to find a manufacturer for the Launchers, so Bohman can get out of her basement and more Launchers can get into hospitals. Then Bohman can make it a full-time business.Then Bohman will continue trying to get more and more hospitals to use the Launchers.Once they get into hospitals, Bohman hopes to establish a scholarship program for the siblings of cancer patients.”When you go through something like that they are like the forgotten mourner,” Bohman said. “They have to stay home and take care of the house while the parents and brother or sister are doing treatments.”Eventually, Bohman wants to set up a research center for kids with life-threatening diseases.It’s quite a project, but it’s one Bohman has pledged her life to. Even with the work she has done so far, Bohman has already made a difference. “(The Bohmans) have been a huge asset to Children’s Hospital since the day Kelsey first came. That’s an unusual way to describe a family of a newly diagnosed cancer patient, but for them it fits,” McHugh said. “Since the day they arrived here they have been thinking about others and how to make this process better for other kids and families.”

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