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Anisa Arsenault
Assistant Editor

Kim Jarrelle, Debbie Burbic, Jessamine Niccoli

Clever Medical Co-founders

Necessity is the mother of invention, so the proverb goes. And that was never more true for Virginia nurses Kim Jarrelle, BS, RNC‐OB, Debbie Burbic, RN and Jessamine Niccoli, RN. Having helped deliver thousands of babies in their 50‐plus years of combined nursing experience, the three understood moms who undergo c‐sections feel they miss out on that immediate postbirth skin‐to‐skin contact with their babies. (In most hospitals, babies are whisked away because of surgical procedures after c‐section birth.)

They recognized that moms (33 percent of whom in the US undergo unplanned or elective c‐sections) deserved better. So the trio spent three years working on a solution, starting with cardboard prototypes on Jarrelle’s kitchen table. Last fall, they unveiled the final version: the Clever Medical Skin to Skin C‐Section Drape.

Unlike the surgical drapes currently used for c‐sections, this one does more than just curtain off the operating field from mom’s torso. Doctors can pass baby to mom immediately after delivery through a plastic flap curtain. And because that flap can be resealed after baby is passed through, the sterile environment of the surgical area is maintained as the doctor sutures the uterus.

“Our goal is not to promote having a c‐section but to improve the experience for moms who don’t have a choice,” Jarrelle says.

The big idea
“Evidence‐based literature started to come out [in 2012] about the benefits of immediate skin‐to‐skin contact. When we started to practice this after vaginal labors, we thought, ‘Why can’t we do this after c‐sections in the OR?’” Jarrelle says.

Bonding from birth
“We heard the same phrase over and over from c‐section patients: ‘Wow, that was surreal—I don’t even feel like I had a baby.’ So we wanted to make a more intimate experience for mom and baby. Why should they be robbed of the [vaginal birth] experience and skin‐to‐skin benefits?” Jarrelle says.

Sacred space
“Changing the culture of the operating room is a bit of a challenge, but doctors ultimately love [the drape] because they understand the benefits. We’ve had some pushback from anesthesiologists, but they’re usually on board after we demonstrate it,” Jarrelle says.

The trial run
“When we had just 10 samples of the final prototype, we got permission from a patient who had a previous c‐section to use it. Right after the delivery, Debbie looked at the mom and said, ‘Look up and see your baby coming through!’ She held the baby, then dad did. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Jarrelle says.

Photo: Courtesy of Clever Medical

Positive feedback
“About four or five months ago, Jess, who’s an OR nurse (Debbie and I are labor and delivery nurses), had a dialogue with the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, who were very impressed. We also met with Ginger Breedlove, the president of the American College of Nurse‐Midwives, and got her to autograph one of the drapes,” Jarrelle says.

What’s next
“Right now, at least five hospitals in the US are using the drape, and one in Richmond, Virginia, is using it for every c‐section. People are reaching out to us, both on Facebook and on our website. We’ve met with a few investors and need to figure out how to keep promoting it. We have a US patent; maybe we’ll get a European patent,” Jarrelle says.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Clever Medical