SAINT PAUL, Minn. — A college student, inspired by his Iraq War vet father’s struggles with night terrors, is being recognized for an invention to help those suffering from the condition.
Macalester College senior Tyler Skluzacek said he was in sixth grade when his dad, Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Skluzacek, spent a year in Iraq.
“Your dad just disappearing for a year and coming back a little bit different and seeing his Army buddies and them coming back a little bit different, too. … I have a real personal connection to the PTSD problem,” Tyler said.
Patrick Skluzacek now has night terrors, which according to the Mayo Clinic, “are episodes of screaming, intense fear and flailing while still asleep.”
In his case, “at three in the morning all of a sudden I’m startled awake.”
Tyler saw the effect on his father and wanted to help. In September, he entered a computer programming contest called HackDC.
During HackDC, teams had 36 hours to create mobile apps for PTSD.
Tyler decided to “try to create something that will help (his father) sleep better. That’s what it’s all about.”
Tyler and his team, “The Cure,” wrote code and created a smart watch app called myBivy, short for bivouac — a temporary camp or shelter.
The app tracks heart rate and movement with the goal to predict night terrors.
“After a couple weeks of tracking the soldier we can find … the exact symptoms of the onset of the panic attack and try to use the watch or use the Android phone to disrupt that or take them out of the deep sleep but keep them asleep,” Tyler said.
Tyler said the app will use sound or vibration to prevent night terrors.
The myBivy app earned Tyler and his team top prize in the Best Mobile Application for Clinicians category. The team was awarded $1,500.
“I am very proud of him, yeah,” his father said.
The app has yet to go through clinical trials but Tyler wants it on every veteran’s wrist.
“My team and I kind of have a saying right now that my team and I won’t sleep until the veterans can,” he said.
Tyler said he has been working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and sleep experts. His team is currently raising money through a Kickstart er campaign.
They hope to start clinical testing of the app in the spring.
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