This last March, as overwhelmed hospitals were running out of ventilators needed to help patients struggling to breathe on their own due to COVID-19, a small group of engineers and doctors at UC Berkeley and UCSF got together to see if there wasn’t a way to address this. We came up with a way to modify household sleep apnea machines so they could serve the same purpose — provide positive pressure air to people’s lungs with oxygen to help them breathe.
Developing the devices was the easy part; it took much longer than we anticipated to get them into the hands of doctors. But today, hospitals in Ecuador, Haiti, Guyana and Malawi are using the low-cost, safe devices to save lives, and units will be shipped to Mexico soon. We couldn’t have done this without your help. Please view some photos of recipients below.
We set out to see if we could solve a problem and we did. It was a massive undertaking for a scrappy group of volunteers to get the devices from the homes of donors, into warehouses for assembling and then shipped to hospitals that requested them. To do that, we needed an infrastructure of people, technology and logistics. They included: donors; engineers and engineering students; doctors, administrators and engineers at the Hospital Universitario Infanta Leonor in Madrid, University of Miami and Stanford; lawyers; website developers; systems integrators for Salesforce; shipping carriers and drivers for logistics provider Apogee; and marketing and PR professionals.
While the original goal was speed-to-market at minimal cost, our colleagues in Spain doing clinical trials discovered that these inexpensive emergency ventilator alternatives are a lifesaving therapy in their own right. Doctors there estimate that by using these at an early stage in disease progression, they’re able to keep about one-third of patients off ventilators who would otherwise require them. Given that the vast majority of patients with COVID who are put on ventilators don’t survive, our assemblies are directly reducing fatalities. We estimate we will have saved about 5,000 lives with units we shipped. This is due to the generosity of our donors. You share in the triumph of these lives we've saved together, and we cannot thank you enough.
It’s not often that a random group of volunteers are able to come together to find a solution to a serious problem and save lives during a pandemic. We’re proud of what we’ve managed to accomplish and we owe it to all the help we got along the way, from people who were willing to step out of their comfort zone in a time of crisis and help others.
If your device was picked up or shipped to our warehouse, or if you donated funds - THANK YOU. You should have received your donation receipt for tax purposes earlier in an email.
If you have not had your device collected, THANK YOU for offering to donate your device. We had to select the most logistically desirable devices for pickup, and your address was not on a viable route for pickup. We will not be able to use your device. If you want to donate it, you can try contacting your local clinics, hospitals, sleep labs, or Red Cross chapters to see if your machine can be usable now.
If you reached out to share information or collaborate, THANK YOU for your kind efforts on behalf of others. We have updated our website with some information about our process and design. Please see our SOLUTIONS page for information.
Any other questions might be answered on our website, or reply to this email. Please remember we are still an all volunteer crew, so your patience with our response is much appreciated.
Thank you for all your support,
The COVID-19 Ventilator Rapid Response Team and VentilatorSOS Volunteers