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NOVEMBER 10, 2000

McLaren pit stop knowledge to help child surgery

SOMETIMES the most off-beat stories are the best, so it's nice to be able to record that the McLaren-Mercedes team is helping London's famous Great Ormond street hospital in what might best be described as "pit stop" baby care.

This is not a surprise. McLaren Chairman Ron Dennis and his wife Lisa have been longtime supporters of the Tommys charity campaign which concentrates on the problems surrounding ill, and particularly premature, babies and their health handling.

Now, in what must be one of the most remarkable examples of motor racing "technology transfer" Great Ormond Street has sought the advice and assistance of the McLaren-Mercedes team in a bid to bring the split-second discipline of an F1 pit stop into the medical sphere in an effort to establish how children might be transferred more quickly and safely out of the operating theatre during the critical moments which follow complex heart surgery.

McLaren team manager Dave Ryan has, according to The Independent newspaper, visited the hospital and schooled doctors into how seconds can be shaved off a tire change.

It is the hope of the doctors involved to adapt the method to help medical teams to inset lines, tubes and syringes and begin monitoring the vital functions as soon as possible after a baby who has had surgery arrives in the intensive care unit.

Cardiac surgeon Martin Elliott was the man who concluded that the speed and efficiency displayed by motor racing pit stops represented the closest parallel for the improvements they were seeking and thus contacted McLaren for advice.

Mr. Elliott, who is director of transplantation at the hospital, commented; "The potential for hazard when transferring patients to a new team, who have to relearn in just a few seconds everything that we have learnt about a patient during a six hour operation, is high.

"There are some simple, mechanical aspects to that transfer that looked ridiculous and we noticed that these F1 guys seemed to be able to handle transfers rather well."

Jane Carthey, a researcher at the Institute of Child Health, who worked on the new plan, commented; "Our handover from the operating theatre to the intensive care unit is our pit stop.

"Just as a F1 race can be won or lost on the pit stop, for us, it can mean the difference between winning or losing the battle for the baby."