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Sunday, February 24, 2008

One Year Anniversary

Today is just over a year since I started the Pandemic Ventilator Project. To commemorate, I have added a new logo pVp to the blog (on the right) and will also use a smaller version as my avatar on discussion boards. Vinnie is nearing completion of the first prototype stage. Not all the features and alarms are yet in place but it is far enough along that it can be seen that this is a very feasible approach.

I have decided to give the other prototype ventilator a name as well. I will call it Max in honor of Maxwell K. Reynolds. He is the man who built those ventilators in Marquette Michigan to help save children from dying in the Polio epidemic when a commercial iron lung was not available.

In many ways I am quite happy with the progress so far. The basic principles of the design have been validated, and it also appears we can build a more advanced version with improved control and alarm capabilities. On the other hand, I expected that the project would have involved more people by now than we currently have. There are really only 3 active developers and a small number of contributors that provide advice, direction and promotion help as well.

The basic development work done so far has been done with no funding. We have purchased all components and equipment on our own. We are reaching the point that if we want to scale up the project to do more testing and be able to increase the number of available units we will have to seek some form of funding source. Everyone working on the project now is either in a full time job or education. The development work is done in our spare time. We really need the help of a professional in respiratory therapy. I have a background in biomedical technology, but I have to learn all the clinical requirements of ventilator therapy as we go along.

I have learned a lot in the last year. I thought my idea of building home made ventilators for use in a pandemic was original, but I have since learned that the same approach was used to save lives in the polio epidemic in the first half of the last century. I thought my weighted bellows idea was original but have come across many designs for older ventilators that also successfully used that principle such as the Blease Manley Ventilator. I thought the idea of building a low maintenance, low cost ventilator that can be serviced by local people in third world countries was novel, but there is a successful precedent for that as well.

One idea I hold that I wish were shared by more people is that the use of home built ventilators from a proven design using readily available highly reliable industrial control system components and other common materials is a valid approach to supplying ventilators in a WHO phase 6 pandemic alert. I believe that this is one more way of maximizing the number of lives that could be saved, but not necessarily a complete solution to the ventilator shortage. I have no idea of how I can impress this idea on the people that make the triage plans and allocation decisions for pandemic planning. I have produced this blog, contacted them directly and have made numerous posts in other prominent avian flu pandemic discussion forums. I find it hard to believe they have not heard of this proposal. I have not heard from any high level planner about this. Not even criticism.


  1. Answering as a local pandemic planner - I love the idea. I think the option of low cost, homebrew ventilators is great. The problem for my city at least is that our funds are fairly strictly controlled by the grants we get, so for now at least investing in this sort of thing can't be done. I am following the development though, and if the opportunity to push for action presents itself I will take it. Keep up the good work.

  2. Thank you for the supportive comment Joel.


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