LOS ANGELES (KABC) --Hospital-acquired infections are a huge problem, yet it's a reality many patients face. However, medical centers and staffs are fighting back by using tools such as a high-tech, germ-fighting robot.
While these robots usually roam hospital halls, one of them made a very special house call in Pasadena.
At 11-months-old, Vaughn LaMarque suffered a double ear infection and his parents discovered a lump on the back of his neck. They brought him to the emergency room at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Doctors diagnosed him with a rare form of leukemia and admitted him right on the spot.
"We were there for 11 weeks and two days and got out on the Fourth of July," Vaughn's father, Dack LaMarque, said.
Due to chemotherapy, Vaughn is very susceptible to infection and suffered three close calls at the hospital.
During his stay, he met the famous Star Wars robot R2-D2, but his family was most impressed with a cleaning robot named Gerrard.
"Every time the rooms change over, and somebody else moves into a room, this robot would come...and it's like flashing, and that one uses purple light," LaMarque said.
The robot's clicking sound pulses with the light. Gerrard kills germs using light 500 times brighter than the sun.
Vaughn's grandmother contacted the company that makes Gerrard, Xenex Disinfection Services, to see if the robot could clean Vaughn's house when he returned home.
"In this case, why we're doing this for baby Vaughn is of course coming back from the hospital, we want to bring down the bio burden as much as possible," Sonali Desai, a scientist with Xenex, said.
Gerrard uses a xenon gas bulb to create a powerful ultra-violet light that targets superbugs at the cellular level. It destroys the germ's DNA and when the DNA can't replicate, it can't infect.
"It's destroying it at a level that within minutes we can kill C-Dif, MRSA, VRE and Ebola," Desai said.
Forty California hospitals, including several in the L.A. area, use robots like Gerrard to disinfect patient rooms and surgical suites.
The Centers for Disease Control says on any given day one out of every 25 patients will get a healthcare-associated infection and some end up being deadly.
Desai said patients need to advocate for themselves.
"We have to ask those questions of hospitals. What are you doing? What is the latest thing you've been doing to help disinfect the hospital to help my loved one come back safer?" she said.
Vaughn's parents say he'll be in and out of hospitals for the next two years.
"It's been a rough road, but we have his smile and his joy - he's a very happy baby. He gives us a lot of hope about the future," LaMarque said.