Young inventor puts time in hospital to good use

Lexi, who had complex spine surgery, works while in the hospital

Alexis (Lexi) Abbott is a 14-year-old inventor from the Appalachian Highlands region of Virginia. Lexi is so dedicated to her craft that she didn’t let a recent hospital stay at Boston Children’s Hospital for a complex spinal surgery get in the way of her creativity. Instead, she came prepared, turning her stay into an extended invention session.

When packing for Boston Children’s, Lexi made sure to include her many scientific notebooks, all filled with vivid descriptions of her inventions — from the simple to elaborate — that she hopes to one day design and patent.

During her several months in the hospital, Lexi worked tirelessly on new ideas, and her notebooks now boast nearly 400 inventions. For Lexi, creating new inventions is a way to help cope with her health condition and offers a distraction from her treatment.

She also found plenty of support from the staff at Boston Children’s. Chelsey Ballard, a child life specialist, referred Lexi to various members of the hospital’s Creative Arts Program to help Lexi bring her ideas to life. Artist-in-residence Laki Vazakas, a gifted filmmaker and videographer, helped Lexi create a video commercial for one of her creative concepts, “Animal Alert,” a warning system that informs pet owners when their animal has gone astray or has entered an unsafe situation.

Laki (far left), Joe, and Lexi collaborate on Louie Flies Home

Laki then introduced Lexi to writer-in-residence, Ginny Lewis. Together, Lexi and Ginny worked on compiling a polished, published anthology of Lexi’s inventions — and fleshing out several of her concepts and designs.

Lexi’s first published piece, “Louie Flies Home,” was co-authored by her devoted grandfather (Papa), Joe. The piece describes their experiences around the rescue and rehabilitation of a tiny robin, Louie, who became an adopted member of their family. Lexi, Joe, Laki, and Ginny also collaborated on an audio recording of Lexi and Joe co-narrating “Louie Flies Home” — capturing their voices, as well as the memory of their shared caregiving experience.

Whenever anybody says to me ‘You can’t do that!’ I know to ignore them. I just go higher and harder and faster with all of my great ideas.”

The second piece they created was Lexi’s “Catalogue of Inventions,” weighing in at a formidable 375 pages. This anthology includes inventions ranging from the fantastical, such as Invention #297: Spray-On Shoes and Invention #355: Ghost Binoculars to those more closely related to Lexi’s experience at Boston Children’s, like Invention #374: O2 Joy, a flavored oxygen for children who need to be on continuous oxygen support.

“I’m on fire with all of my books right now,” says Lexi. “I’m always coming up with new ideas. I like to share my thoughts, and I’m always thinking about my work. Whenever anybody says to me ‘You can’t do that!’ I know to ignore them. I just go higher and harder and faster with all of my great ideas.”

Lexi, who had complex spine surgery, works on her writing with writer-in-residence
Lexi and Ginny collaborate on “Catalogue of Inventions”

As Lexi recovered from her surgery, gathering her strength and creative firepower, Ginny reached out to Boston Children’s Technology and Innovation Development Office (TIDO) to share several of Lexi’s designs created specifically with patients and families in mind. These included 02 Joy and Invention #345: Pikerat’s Electric Halo Circle Belt Headphones, designed for patients who have to wear a medical halo to stabilize their spines while simultaneously remaining plugged into their music. Impressed by Lexi’s innovative spirit and the breadth of her knowledge and interests, a team from TIDO that included Marina Freytis, Aida Herrera Gutierriez, and Thais De Oliveira, paid Lexi a special visit.

Lexi, who had complex spine surgery, receives a certificate of recognition from the TIDO team
Lexi receives her certificate from TIDO members Thais, Marina, and Aida (left to right)

The group came bearing gifts for Lexi, including a special certificate of recognition, a monogrammed fleece to make Lexi an honorary member of their department, and a new science notebook. They also shared information about the process for submitting designs and inventions.

Lexi used the visit as an opportunity to share several of her inventions, original sketches, and diagrams with the team and asked many thoughtful questions about the patent application process. “You’re a true inventor, and a female inventor,” Aida told her. “We need more of those!”

After the visit, Lexi said the team had made all her dreams come true. The TIDO team encouraged Lexi to remain in touch and to send them all of her latest inventions. All who have met Lexi agree: Boston Children’s, and the wider world, hasn’t heard the last from Alexis Abbott and her brilliant ideas.

Learn more about the Creative Arts Program and TIDO.

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