Home with Hope Again
By Cathryn O'Hare/ Staff Writer
Thursday, October 6, 2005
Judie and Mike Tripoli are thrilled now that their son, Mike Jr., is back in the family fold, along with his twin brother Sal and younger brother Jonathon.
They are particularly happy because he will also have the help of a new invention, "EagleEyes," to help him communicate again.
In late July of 2004, Mike junior suffered the incomprehensible - an almost deadly episode shortly after a routine workout. This parish altar boy, honor student at Bishop Fenwick High School, member of the junior varsity hockey team and Danvers Youth Soccer suffered, in technical terms, an episode of prolonged rapid heartbeat, leaving his brain oxygen deprived, which left him first, in a coma and now in a semi-responsive state.
With the constant care of his family and the prayers of his many friends, Michael has made notable strides in the last year. He can now swallow on his own, track items with his eyes and has become more responsive to his environment.
Three months ago Michael Jr. was tested on "EagleEyes," the invention of Boston College Professor James Gips. This innovative technology enables communication and learning, by allowing the user to use his or her eyes to move the computer pointer on a computer screen. Essentially, the eyes replace the mouse.
The Tripolis, Gips, and Debbie Inkley, founder and executive director of The Opportunity Foundation of America, decided Michael Jr. could benefit considerably from this technology. The Opportunity Foundation then decided to give the "EagleEyes" system to the Tripoli family, which they did this Monday, Oct. 3.
The Opportunity Foundation of America (OFOA) was founded in the year 2000 by a group of executives in Salt Lake City, Utah. The foundation's mission is to help improve the quality of life for people with physical and mental disabilities and to provide services to those actively seeking employment or striving to retain employment.
In 2004, through contacts made while promoting the foundation's mission, the organization was introduced to Boston College Professor James Gips and the innovative technology called EagleEyes. The university has been working to make EagleEyes publicly available, but did not want financial profit to be a consideration Boston College wanted to find an organization that had the interest and dedication to market, manufacture, and distribute EagleEyes to those who would benefit from the technology. In June of 2005, Boston College and OFOA signed a formal agreement giving the foundation license to market, manufacture and distribute EagleEyes to special needs schools, non-profit organizations, and individuals for free.
Many people with severe disabilities have been unable to communicate effectively. Many speak only in unintelligible sounds. Still others have no movement other than spastic facial or bodily ticks. Most, however, have some control of their eye movement that has been unrecognized as a potential method of effective communication and learning.
Researchers at Boston College capitalized on this eye movement through a technology that measures the user's EOG, or electro-oculographic potential (electrical relationship of the position of the eye relative to the head). The result of their research is called EagleEyes that allows people to control the mouse pointer on the screen by moving their eyes.
With commercially available learning and entertainment software, the ability to evaluate, communicate, and educate is now a reality. The potential benefit to this incredible group of individuals and their families is enormous, said Debbie Inkley of the Opportunity Foundation.
For more information about the foundation, call 801-231-6691 or visit online www.ofoa.net. For more information about the technology, call Boston College, 617-552-3981, or visit online www.bc.edu/eagleeyes.
Information for this report was received from The Opportunity Foundation.