For the Aymara, weaving is a tradition in their culture that has been passed down for generations. Now, this tradition has passed boundaries and is moving into the healthcare arena and producing products that are life saving. Aymara women learn to weave at a very young age, and develop amazing skills by time they hit their adult years (even sooner for some). Their steady hands allow for a perfect solution to creating a medical product that cannot be mass-produced. The product is a single strand of nitinol – an estaic metal – that needs to be woven at the top hat shaped occluder, which is meant to close a hole in the patient’s heart.
The techniques that the Aymara women obtain through years of practice now have become a crucial step in this type of heart surgery. Before the Aymaran woman can help produce this device, they must spend four months in a lab practicing. The device that is so carefully woven in, travels through blood vessels and expands when it reaches the heart. The device is intended to work for the patient’s entire life.
The Aymaran women create 250 to 300 of these devices each month. The company
that sells these devices, Freudenthal, has sold 7,000 implants to patients in Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe. The company hopes to eventually be able to donate one implant for each one sold.