Photo by Paul Takizawa

Ashley Yeshoua: Created concept for bluetooth-connected defibrillator


AGE: 18
HIGH SCHOOL: Milken Community Schools
GOING TO: USC

When Ashley Yeshoua selected a project to pursue for her Science Research class at Milken Community Schools, she chose an idea that was close to her heart.

She formulated a way to enhance defibrillators, devices implanted to deliver an electric current after detecting a life-threatening irregular heartbeat. Her innovation would warn patients through an app upon detecting an irregular heartbeat before an electrical shock returns the heartbeat to normal.

Yeshoua drew inspiration for her idea from her mother, who had gone into cardiac arrest at home seven years ago.

“Fortunately, we live a block from the fire department, so she was treated quickly,” Yeshoua said.

After that episode, Yeshoua’s mother had surgery to implant a defibrillator. The device served its purpose four years later, when she went into cardiac arrest while riding in an elevator. The defibrillator shocked her and restored her heartbeat. “The defibrillator saved her life,” Yeshoua said.

But the shock caused her mother to fall and hit her head against the elevator wall. She suffered short-term memory loss as a result.

Yeshoua’s proposal involves inserting a Bluetooth device inside the defibrillator that could wirelessly send an alert to an app or smart watch, triggering a warning sound.

“This way, the person could prepare by siting down, or by pulling over if they were driving,” she explained.

Yeshoua named the concept a “Defraprillator” as it allows the defibrillator to interact with an app that would provide alerts.

She also proposed creating a wirelessly rechargeable battery for defibrillators. Normally, batteries require changing every five to seven years. That subjects patients to the risks of surgery along with an expense of around $35,000.

“My mom was about 32 years old when she had her first cardiac arrest,” Yeshoua said. “That means during her lifetime, she could expect to have about eight surgeries to replace her defibrillator batteries.”

Instead, Yeshoua theorized, why not create an external charging unit that a patient could wear overnight to recharge the device wirelessly?

Yeshoua presented the concept at the 2016 Milken Global Conference, an annual gathering bringing together leaders in health, government, education and other disciplines to address pressing challenges. She also entered the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge, a national competition inviting high school students to propose innovative solutions to problems in health and other fields. She was selected as a semifinalist and traveled to Florida to present her ideas.

In addition to her interest in cardiology, Yeshoua  also is drawn to dentistry. She began volunteering in the dental lab at the Veterans Affairs hospital the summer before her junior year. She helps make prosthetics and dental devices such as bridges and retainers.

Yeshoua’s pursuits extend beyond the medical field. She plays on Milken’s basketball and tennis teams and is an avid skateboarder.

The second of four children, she enjoys music and has played piano for about 10 years.

“All of my siblings play sports and instruments,” she said.

“I’m a huge family girl,” she added. “I love spending time with my siblings.”

Family played a role in Yeshoua’s choice of colleges. When deciding between UC Berkeley and USC, she chose the latter so she could spend Shabbats at home. Also, her older brother attends USC. He will join her in pursuing the defibrillator project. 

Yeshoua’s mother expressed concern about the workload that a science-based choice of study would entail for her daughter. But Yeshoua has no reservations. “This is my true passion,” she said. “This is what I want to do.”

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