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Doctors at UTMB build ventilator out of common hospital supplies

With looming ventilator shortage, doctors hopeful "if we need this it will allow us to have more capacity as a health system"

GALVESTON, Texas — As the coronavirus continues to spread so does growing concern among health workers about a looming shortage in ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients. 

"Everyone is extremely stressed about the oncoming wave of this disease," said Dr. Chris Zahner, Assistant Professor of Clinical Pathology at UTMB.

Dr. Zahner and Dr. Aisen C. Chacin, two doctors at UTMB in Galveston, know more cases mean the need for more ventilators. 

"Our response was to create a ventilator that could be assembled in a hospital with hospital supplies," said Chacin, the lead designer and developer of the Medical Fabrication Lab. 

Think Apollo 13. It's the same type of American ingenuity on display here. Together Dr. Chacin and Dr. Zahner, a former mechanical engineer at NASA, built the ventilator from scratch. It's key component is a simple blood pressure cuff.

"Now it's a tinkering level, figuring out what combination of connections work best and what other hardware we might need," Zahner said. 

The prototype is their way of helping during the crisis. 

"Hopefully if we need this, it will allow us to have more capacity as a health system," Zahner said. 

One of the goals is to offer a little hope and another tool to the men and women on the front lines treating those with COVID-19. 

"I think it gives them a lot of hope that we're working on this," Chacin said. "We have to be reliable for them as well and show them we're putting our minds together to help them as much as we can."

The duo wants to scale this prototype and is working with UTMB's Institutional Review Board to fast track the process in hopes of making this available to hospitals across the country and world as quickly and safely as possible. 


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