(TMU) — As health care facilities across the globe continue to grapple with a general shortage of supplies to help them with the devastating coronavirus pandemic, one doctor in Canada has managed to use a bit of creativity, ingenuity, and an idea inspired by YouTube to help future patients.
Dr. Alain Gaithier, an anesthetist at the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital in Ontario, was worried about the possibility that his rural hospital’s one ventilator would hardly be able to carry the load that the CoViD-19 outbreak could entail.
So Gauthier, who has a Ph. D. in respiratory mechanics, borrowed an idea conceived by American doctors Greg Neyman and Charlene Babcock in 2006 to double the capacity of a single ventilator. According to CBC the idea was tested successfully following the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting. Babcock eventually created a how-to video explaining how the DIY “upgrade” works.
In just ten minutes, Gauthier used extra tubing to double the number of patients that could be ventilated at the hospital.
The way the system works is that the two patients simultaneously connected to the ventilator must be roughly the same size and with the same lung capacity. Multiple hoses are then attached to the one ventilator, which is then run at several times its normal power.
While imperfect, Gauthier said that “if it comes to last resort, I’m prepared to use it.”
Gauthier’s colleague, Alan Drummond, excitedly shared images of the rigged ventilator on Twitter, jokingly calling Gauthier “an evil genius.” He wrote:
“So in ten minutes the evil genius who is one of our GP anesthetists (with a PhD in diaphragmatic mechanics) increased our rural hospitals ventilator capacity from one to nine!!!”
So in ten minutes the evil genius who is one of our GP anaesthetists (with a PhD in diaphragmatic mechanics) increased our rural hospitals ventilator capacity from one to nine!!! pic.twitter.com/yNmuCCDbWd
— alan drummond (@alandrummond2) March 17, 2020
Drummond, an emergency physician at the hospital, also said that he broke social distancing protocol to give his colleague a big hug.
Even billionaire tycoon Elon Musk expressed his admiration at Gauthier’s efforts, commenting in a the tweet that it was an “interesting thread.”
Continuing, Musk noted that perhaps it could one day lead to a more effective system to ensure that patients breathe. He added:
“A single computer, pump & pressure accumulator would be fine for many patients, but ideally individual valves per patient to personalize care & avoid cross-flow risk.”
A single computer, pump & pressure accumulator would be fine for many patients, but ideally individual valves per patient to personalize care & avoid cross-flow risk
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 20, 2020
However, for Gauthier his newfound fame is the last thing that concerns him in a rural region where many of the 60,000 people served by the hospital are older or have such conditions as diabetes and chronic pulmonary disease.
He also doesn’t want credit for his invention.
“A lot of work is being done by pretty much everyone,” he stressed.
Like many health care systems struggling with the outbreak, Gauthier and his coworkers worry that they soon may be forced to choose which critical patients receive a ventilator and which are simply allowed to die—a dilemma that he hopes to avoid with his Gerry-rigged system.
“We are concerned, we’re trying to get ready as much as possible,” Gauthier said.
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