Many fifth grade science projects involve baking soda volcanoes and potato clocks. While there certainly isn't anything wrong with these creations, there are some students who are so exceptional, their curiosity has the power to change the world.
Such is case with Gabriella Zane, whose 5th grade science project not only scored her an A, but also wound up in a medical journal and could make pediatric surgery safer by reducing the amount of bacteria surgical patients are exposed to through their beloved stuffed animals.
The project was inspired by her well-worn stuffed animal, Sheena, who Gaby has had since age three.
The project, dubbed "The Sheena Protocol," involved swabbing the animals and culturing the bacteria on a petri dish.
Gaby found that by simply washing and drying the stuffed animals, the bacterial load was decreased by about 94%.
It's an impressive discovery and a great science project, but it was about to turn into so much more.
Children often bring their favorite stuffed animals into the operating room, as the entire process can be a bit terrifying. A fuzzy friend gives comfort during this stressful time, but also introduce potentially dangerous bacteria into the OR.
Gaby's mother, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, recognized that her daughter's fifth grade project had much larger implications. Stuffed animals can be washed, dried, and then sealed in plastic until the surgery.
This will allow pediatric patients to have cherished stuffed animals for comfort, while minimizing the chance of infection.
Gaby's mother mentioned the project to Dr. Jonathan Schoenecker of Vanderbilt University, who helped replicate the findings. The results have been accepted for publication in Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics, with Gaby serving as one of the study's co-authors.
Time will tell how big of an impact this development will have at minimizing surgical site infections.