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Giving hospital-bound kids space to invent

The idea of being stuck in a hospital room for weeks at a time is among the many challenges for children living with chronic illnesses
Making space in hospitals for kids with chronic illnesses 02:57

Daelyn James, 14, likes to make things. But what she makes, and where she makes them make her quite the uncommon kid.

With just some wooden sticks, an electric fan, and some plastic rings made with a 3D printer, Daelyn built a device to help kids with Cystic Fibrosis, or CF, dry their nebulizers.

Daelyn does most of her inventing at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, where she spends a lot of time. That's because Daelyn has CF herself - a chronic lung disease.

"Sometimes I'm scared to admit it but then sometimes I'm completely open about it," said Daelyn as she puts the final touches on her new invention.

Daelyn was diagnosed at the age of 4. Like other kids with CF, she's often hospitalized in isolation for two to three weeks at a time.

"Sometimes I would go crazy because I'm not allowed to go out of my room," said Daelyn. "So I'd just be stuck in here with nothing to do."

Gokul Krishnan Daelyn James
Gokul Krishnan, left, and DaelynJames CBS News

That's where Gokul Krishnan comes in. Krishnan, a PhD student at Vanderbilt University, was volunteering at the hospital where a young patient inspired him.

"Imagine if we had a space that will allow us to leave our bed and move around," Krishnan recalled. That led him to invent the "Mobile Makerspace" to help get kids moving more. It's a cart equipped with a camera, a touchscreen computer, tablet, circuit-building kits, and even a 3D printer.

Hollie Dyer, 8, built a doorbell for her nurses, and a rotating pill-case with an LED light - so patients can find their pills at night, without turning on the overhead lights.

"With the Mobile Makerspace, the kids are more active," Krishnan said. "They're designing, they're making, they're collaborating."

Krishnan's idea doesn't just help their minds.

"She's up and out of her bed more often, which is helping her treatments be even more effective," said Dr. Rebekkah Brown, Daelyn's physician. "It has been overall a positive experience, especially for her mental health."

Daelyn, who usually takes less than 300 steps a day at the hospital, takes more than 1,500 when the Makerspace is in her room.

Daelyn's mother, Jaime James said her daughter takes a lot of pride in her work.

"She feels like she actually accomplished something," James said. "She came up with some great invention... and it's useful and other people can use it."

"You can't let a little disease bring you down," Daelyn added.

No she can't -- not judging from a picture she drew with help from the Mobile Makerspace - a pair of lungs looking like the wings of a butterfly.

Daelyn said: "One day I am hoping that our lungs will fly free!"

Daelyn James Gokul Krishnan
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