A mother’s fight against epilepsy using technology

Contributed by team TJay – Top 10 Innovator

Tejas is a fiery brilliance. It is said to emanate from the Divine Mother Durga, and it touches upon all those who call her in times of joy and sorrow. The Mother's blessings touched my life as I welcomed my son Tejas into the world. But Tejas is no ordinary child – he is my special child.

Tejas also has epilepsy since two days of his birth.

His condition remained poorly diagnosed and untreated for a very long time -long enough to impact his growth and development. Despite being taken to some of the most renowned doctors in the country, he developed refractory epilepsy. There seemed to be no proper answer. Needless to say, as a family we were shattered.

Nearly one out of every 100 Indians has epilepsy, making it the most common neurological disorder in India. The prevalence of epilepsy is three times as high in rural India as it is in urban areas. Evidently, for patients and society alike, the situation demands immediate attention.

Saying no to fate

I couldn’t let fate alone decide the course of my boy’s life. But how could I help my son if I didn’t know what exactly ailed him? So I set out to educate myself.

While I read, I also searched for medical devices that could give me an advance notice of an impending seizure.

In India at least, there seemed to be no such device. Worst still, the neurologists and the paediatrics that I consulted were not used to such devices and did not know how to use the data generated by them.

From a mom to a garage entrepreneur

After 3 and a half years of obsessive research on epilepsy, an idea struck me – it was my eureka moment! I thought we could pick up electric signals from almost anything these days. So if epilepsy is characterized by electrical signals, could we not pick up such signals, from whichever part of the body they spread to? Wouldn’t such an alert mechanism help abort an attack before it could do any damage or even save a life?

It dawned on me that a combination of the right sensors, communication mechanism, algorithms, analytics powered by artificial intelligence and a robust IoT framework might hold the key to picking up epilepsy markers and pave the way for seizure prediction for patients.

Super excited at the possibility of finding a solution to Tejas’s problems and for countless others, I procured the required hardware components, and hired a team to give a concrete shape to my idea through a prototype.

What joy it was when after assembly and after fixing the sensors to my body, the first set of data started trickling in to my phone.

Our stint at the IFDI

During the development of the prototype, we had also applied to the Innovate for Digital India (IFDI) Challenge, albeit at the spurt of a moment.

We entered TJay – the now christened epilepsy-detecting device after my son Tejas, a wearable in the shape of a glove in the competition.

It occurred to us that our solution might help close the treatment gap to some extent and bring a bit of happiness to at least some of the 1 crore people, if not all, afflicted by epilepsy.

From among the top 50 to 20 to 10

As part of the Innovate for Digital India Challenge we were invited to IIM, Ahmedabad for a 3-day program to interact with the jury and pitch our innovation. It was an amazing experience – the sessions conducted by experts, the overwhelming ideas, and the enthusiasm of the participants.

After a few days of the Ahmedabad jaunt, we got to know that we were selected to the top 20!

The Accelerator phase was anchored by CIIE & IIM, Ahmedabad where we had to attend sessions conducted by the School of Entrepreneurship -Berkey-Haas, create prototypes with the recently released Intel Edison, work on our business plan, and above all validate our prototypes and business ideas from actual customers and users of our product.

The mentorship and the training from Intel, TCS, CIIE and Berkely were invaluable. They gave us the confidence to chart out a practical path for our product. Each one of these teams and organizations went out of their way to make us proper entrepreneurs and sustainable businesses.

Under the guidance of experts on Intel® architecture, we used the Intel® XDK development tool and incorporated the Intel® Edison board, which has Bluetooth Lite, GSM and Wi-Fi capabilities, into TJay.

After the excitement of being in the top 20, we were recently selected among the top 10 teams in the IFDI program. We were invited to Delhi to be unveiled as the Top 10 innovators in India. It was a moment of pride for me and every member of the team as we showcased our product to Mr. Greg Pearson, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Group and were then felicitated by Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications & IT, Government of India.

Post the felicitation ceremony, we made our way to Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet the President of India, Shri. Pranab Mukherjee. Needless to say, it was an absolute privilege to meet and present TJay to the President.

In closing

With TJay today, we hope to make the lives of people with epilepsy safer and better. Our goal is also to help doctors provide faster and accurate diagnosis. We also aim to make specialty healthcare accessible to the remotest places in the country and close the treatment gap by at least 40% in the next 5 years from the existing 90%.

As I close, my team and I would like to thank all those who have supported us in our journey. Without this support and encouragement, TJay would have been just a dream. Many thanks from the bottom of our hearts.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the participants and do not represent the views of Intel, the Department of Science & Technology and CIIE in any form or matter.