Computer Science student creates mobile app to help with hemophilia


It’s just a scrape. No big deal.

Or is it?

Men with mild forms of the bleeding disorder hemophilia sometimes have trouble telling when an injury may lead to crippling complications like swelling, pain and immobilization.

"These guys are pretty tough. They’re young men. They can walk it off," JoAnn Nilson, a physiotherapist with the Saskatchewan Bleeding Disorders Program, says of many of her patients’ attitudes to injury. "And on the second and third day, they can’t walk."

Since 2006, Nilson and her colleagues across Canada have been thinking of ways to intervene early when young men with mild hemophilia hurt themselves, then wait too long to seek help. When she asked them, the guys wanted a mobile phone app to guide them.

Enter HIRT? The Hemophilia Injury Recognition Tool. In it, men can check their symptoms for warning signs, see suggested treatments, then receive alerts to check their injury for changes. It also includes emergency phone numbers for every hemophilia treatment centre across Canada, in case they’re travelling.

Hemophilia is a genetic disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly. Although it afflicts only boys and men, women can carry the gene and pass it onto their sons. Men with mild hemophilia have some clotting factors in their blood, and do not frequently have bleeding problems — unless they’re injured. Many live normal lives, including playing aggressive sports and working manual labour jobs.

Nilson, working with another physiotherapist at the Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg, found younger men often miss the warning signs of a serious bleed. When it gets out of hand, men can end up spending time in hospital, and missing months of work or school to recover, Nilson said.

"If I save a few guys from going through that, that’s significant," she said.

About one of every 5,000 Canadian men and boys have hemophilia.

Richard Lomotey, a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at the University of Saskatchewan, wrote the HIRT? application with his supervisor. With beta testing, it took about a year, Lomotey said.

HIRT? is in English or French, is free for users, and works on Apple and android mobile devices.

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