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College student is working with a Great Falls family to help child's Cystic Fibrosis treatment

Posted at 6:00 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-02 13:24:20-04

To help make their daughter’s Cystic Fibrosis treatments easier, Emily Canine’s parents, Brenda and Chris let her watch TV and play video games to pass the time. Emily has to two to three rounds of treatment every day. During that treatment, she must do what are called “huff coughs” to clear the mucus in her lungs every five minutes.

If that sounds tedious to you, you’re not alone. The problem with the “watch TV during treatment” solution is Brenda says that Emily sometimes forgets when it’s time to do those coughs, which isn’t good. To help combat that problem, Kody Gilleo, a student at Great Falls College – Montana State University is developing a program that will pause the television show whenever it’s time for Emily to continue her treatment.

“We have a smart plug that has a little Wi-Fi chip in there, and all that does is it allows us to run something off of it,” Kody explained. “I have a small web server set up in my house, and so what it does is the smart plug reads the wattage that the device that’s plugged into it is pulling, and then it posts that information up to a small web server that I have running. Then the webserver reads it and it says ‘hey if it’s between this and this threshold, do this, and if it’s not then don’t do anything.’”

The partnership between Kody and the Canine family came by way of Great Falls College, where Brenda is a member of the biology faculty.

“At the start of this school year, I went to talk to Steve (Robinett) before the semester started and he told me that he was looking for somebody to help with a project that had a grant opportunity,” said Gilleo. “So, I said yeah, of course, I’m interested. Basically, he just told me all about what Chris and Brenda had been working on and what they needed. Of course, Brenda has the medical side of things and Chris has the electrical engineering side of things, and what they needed was a programmer to help put that all together. I heard of that opportunity and I said ‘yeah, I’d love to.’”

According to Brenda, there are other kids with Cystic Fibrosis in Great Falls, and they have actually been practicing social distancing since long before the Coronavirus Pandemic reared its ugly head. The disease is pretty rare, but kids that do have it can’t be near each other, for risk of other illnesses and sicknesses attacking their weakened lungs or other parts of their body. The Canine family has been using masks and social distancing since Emily was born seven years ago.

Both Kody and the Canine family say that working with each other has been very rewarding. Kody was able to obtain a grant from the Montana Space Grant Consortium to help with his work on this project, which he has been working on since September 2019. While he says that the work isn’t quite finished yet, he’s hopeful about the future of the technology and its ability to have a positive impact on people needing treatment for their Cystic Fibrosis, and possibly other groups of people around the world.

May is National Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month. You can visit