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An epiphany at a rock concert helped a sick man invent a device to help himself breathe easier

Ellie Kincaid
lungs
lungs

(Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr) In people with cystic fibrosis, the lungs fill up with thick mucus that makes it harder for them to breathe.

Louis Plante was born with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes his lungs to clog up, because his mucus is thicker and stickier than the mucus produced in healthy lungs.

To clear their lungs of mucus so they can breathe, many people with cystic fibrosis do a type of physical therapy that involves someone thumping or clapping on their chests for 20 to 40 minutes multiple times per day. At one point, Plante needed four hours of this therapy every day.

But after going to a rock concert where he sat close to a large speaker and coughed so much he had to leave early, Plante got the idea to build a device that would replicate the speaker's mucus-clearing effects with low-frequency sound waves.

Plante developed what is now called the Frequencer, an FDA-approved device that clears mucus from the lungs as effectively and more gently than the traditional clapping therapy does.

frequencer
frequencer

(YouTube/Dymedso) A representative of the company that markets the Frequencer demonstrates using the device.

It works like this: the Frequencer emits sound waves through a circular attachment held to the patient's chest.

Those sound waves make the chest vibrate and knock mucus loose — which achieves the goal of the clapping physical therapy, but without the chest-thumping.

Plante's device recently won an award from Patient Innovation, a special project of Católica-Lisbon School of Business and Economics in Portugal that provides a platform for patients and caregivers to share their creative ways of dealing with their conditions.

Thanks to his rock concert epiphany, Plante came up with a solution that could help thousands of other people with cystic fibrosis breathe easier.

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