The mere mentioning of a ‘wonder woman’ would most probably let oneself to perceive mentally an illustration of a superhero persona clad in a cape or in golden eagle armor. However, when a super heroine figure does not only limit to just a comic character, but also actively engages in challenging her life threatening disease with her own MedTech invention which has impacted as a reverse force for many people suffering from severe Pulmonary Hypertension (PH) due to Eisenmenger’s Syndrome including herself, how could not she be dubbed literally as the ‘wonder woman’?
This wonder woman is non-other than Ms. Shavini Fernando, a Sri Lankan alumna of Georgetown University, who developed OxiWear: a wearable device that continuously monitors the user’s oxygen levels and alerts the wearer when their oxygen falls too low.
“Your brain is the CPU to your body and everything that’s happening around you. If you program your brain the way you want through positive and optimistic thoughts, your body and the rest of the universe will work in your favor.”
Shavini, born and raised in Kandy, was diagnosed with atrial septal defect in 2015. By then, she had been consulted and treated by more than fifty doctors from her childhood who simply diagnosed her as a kid with asthma even if she had experienced breathing problems her whole life. Once her health condition which came as a result of an untreated atrial septal defect, a birth defect resulting in a hole near the heart was eventually detected, she was destined to live for only two more years as per her doctor.
“Being a rebel my whole life, I didn’t want to let him decide how long I get to live, so I told him that just because he is a doctor, he doesn’t have the right to decide and tell me how long I get to live and that I will prove him wrong and will be back after two years to meet him.”
Not willing to accept such an ominous diagnosis, she went to the United States to get a second opinion from Johns Hopkins Hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with Eisenmenger syndrome. Being constantly obsessed with novel innovations, she never allowed a disease to stop her enthusiasm fade away. A software engineer and technologist by trade; Shavini was no newcomer to the technological world when she began developing OxiWear.
Months of collaborative hard work paved her path to develop OxiWear, a wearable device for the ear that continuously monitors the user’s oxygen level and alerts the wearer when their oxygen falls too low. When alerted, users can activate a personalized emergency plan with the press of a button on the device, ranging from calling 911 to sending automated text messages to their emergency contacts to save time in those critical moments.
Through a series of trials and failures she was able to carry OxiWear to a point, where it made an impact at events like Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize ‘Bark Tank’, the People’s Choice Award, and the Global Impact Pitch Competition and eventually being able to file for a patent, despite the limited resources and lack of funding during the process.
Shavini, who was destined to live for only two more years, was able to change her fate with her own innovation, which is still being developed under advanced technology, simply because she was not prepared to easily accept her fate but to change it for herself and also for the betterment of the society. Once you start following the rhythm of your heartbeat, none will be there to challenge your fate; it is destined to be changed by yourself only.
“I might die tomorrow by falling off a chair, not from my disease; I’m a very carefree person. I have always lived for today.”
Whenever you face a challenging situation, never allow it to intimidate you, once you start following the rhythm of your heartbeat, none will be there to challenge your fate; it is destined to be changed only by yourself.
Written by: Rtr. Yashodya Bandaranayake (RotaTomorrow – Team I)