Taking care of our neighbors starts on our block and extends throughout the world.


Update Jan 2021: VentilatorSOS Stops Operations

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

Units in use at Hospital Infanta Leonor, Madrid, Spain, using procedures developed by Dr. Ricardo Larraínzar and Dr. Beatriz Arias

VSOS in Malawi under the leadership of Dr. Jeffrey Wilkinson, Area 25 Hospital Lilongwe

VSOS rolled out in Ecuador under leadership of Dr. Gonzalo Mantilla, Dean of College of Health Sciences, Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Update August 18: Devices Shipped to Ecuador, Haiti and Malawi -- Other Countries Need Help Too

The international demand for modified sleep apnea devices to help COVID-19 patients is rising fast. We recently shipped devices to Ecuador and we’ve got shipments prepared to send to Haiti and Malawi any day now. Meanwhile, other countries have been reaching out inquiring about devices too, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Brazil, Peru and Mexico. Clearly there is a strong need for these devices in many parts of the world where infection rates are high and ventilator supplies are low.

The devices enable hospitals to save more lives without paying tens of thousands of dollars each for ventilators. Doctors who have used the devices estimate that by having the modified sleep apnea solutions they’re able to keep one-third of patients off ventilators who otherwise would have to use them. Given that the majority of patients who are put on ventilators don’t survive, this option means many more people will survive. The cost of these units is a fraction of what it would cost to buy a new or used device. Ventilators cost between $6,000 and $15,000 each while these modified devices with parts and mask are only about $100 each.

The international shipments represent a milestone and demonstrate the power of collaboration. This effort was driven by engineers, doctors, universities, and corporations both domestic and international. We were lucky to connect with Salesforce, developers Persistent, Apogee and our hospital and university partners, including UC Berkeley, UCSF, Stanford, University of Miami and Hospital Universitario Infanta Leonor in Madrid.

However, we are a small group of volunteers and we have come to a point where we need help to scale the effort to meet demand internationally and in the United States. So we’re seeking a partner for the next phase of the mission. There are many millions of unused sleep apnea machines in the U.S. and they can readily be made available to people all around the world. In order to adequately meet the demand and scale we need an organization, company or individual(s) who can provide money and/or resources to help scale the effort. If you are interested in helping out please contact us at:

Meanwhile, we are still accepting donations of sleep apnea machines, which are an easy to use and affordable alternative to ventilators. We’ve received millions of dollars worth of donated sleep apnea units from all over the U.S. and we need more to meet growing demand.

We also have a GoFundMe site where people can make financial donations to VentilatorSOS to help pay for shipments of devices to hospitals in countries that need them. Our GoFundMe site is here.

Thank you to all of the generous people who have donated sleep apnea machines, money, time and other resources to VentilatorSOS. We couldn’t have done it without all your help.

Update July 25: Help Us Raise Funds to Get Breathing Support Devices to Doctors in Haiti

We want to thank all the people who have donated more than 1,500 sleep apnea devices so we can get them to doctors that need ventilator alternatives to treat COVID-19 patients. The sleep apnea devices can easily be modified to help patients breath when ventilators are not available to use. We have an opportunity to help hospitals in Haiti too and we’re raising $15,000 on GoFundMe to pay for the transportation of 100 sleep apnea devices from storage in northern California to St. Luke Hospital in Port-au-Prince. Nonprofit Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (“Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) is also helping to raise funds for the St. Luke effort.

Initially formed to help hospitals in the U.S., we’ve opened up our aperture as infections rose internationally in regions that find themselves with ventilators shortages. Haiti has a population of more than 11 million but only capacity to treat a few hundred patients at a time. So, Dr. Marc Edson Augustin is building 100 more intensive care units to serve the influx of COVID-19 patients, many of whom may need help breathing, since COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system.

If you’d like to help us get modified sleep apnea devices to him to save lives please donate at our GoFundMe site here. Thank you for your help.

We will have more exciting news to share very soon, so stay tuned!


By Bryan Martel

We have exciting news to share -- Salesforce and Apogee have agreed to contribute and help with this project! We are grateful they will be supporting our efforts to address the shortage of ventilators needed for COVID-19-infected patients who need help breathing. Salesforce is donating software that will be used to manage our backend system that will handle the sleep apnea donations from the public and the requests from hospitals made on our website. Apogee will provide logistics help, picking up the donations and delivering them to hospitals.

We’re starting logistics trials with the University of California, San Francisco, and University of Miami and hope to have devices shipping at scale very soon. So far we’ve received about 2,200 device donations through the website, and we’re in discussions with a partner who may be able to bring upwards of 40,000 BiPAPS and CPAPs to our effort.

Meanwhile, we've had more testing validation for the modification design, which we initially collaborated on with UCSF. The University of Miami independently evaluated our devices and validated their performance. They want to partner in deploying these devices to areas of greatest need.

We’ve also had more media coverage about the program — PBS NewsHour, LA Times, KTVU News, KRXQ Radio, KCBS Radio, The Union, PharmaIntelligence, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine shared the information with its members too.

While COVID-19 curves seem to be flattening in certain U.S. cities, new hot spots are cropping up in New Orleans, Detroit and other cities. There is also growing demand for ventilators in other countries as the new coronavirus infections make their way around the globe. While our program is focused right now on meeting the needs of U.S. patients and hospitals, we will expand internationally as needed. Our goal is to support life saving efforts and meet the needs wherever they may arise. Viruses don’t distinguish between international borders, and our humanitarian efforts won’t either.

Every donated sleep apnea device offers the potential to keep someone in desperate need of care on life-saving oxygen. Please help us get the word out by sharing this post on social media and with your family and friends.

Thank you!


We are pleased to announce that since we launched this project publicly a week ago we’ve been seeing a lot of activity. First, the FDA has confirmed that using a sleep apnea machine (CPAP/BiPAP) and connecting it to an endotracheal tube or face mask, while thoughtfully minimizing aerosolization, would provide a useful tool for doctors during this COVID-19 crisis, and emergency authorization is not needed.

Thankfully New York now seems to be through the worst of the infections, but we need to stay ahead of this problem for hospitals in cities like Houston, Miami, New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and other expected hot spots.

Doctors or hospitals can access via a registry CPAP/BiPAP machines and a simple parts list that will allow them to use a standard endotracheal tube or face mask and add oxygen. Once they make the request, they will be sent PRE-VENT packages containing the equipment with simple instructions on how to configure the device, often with parts that they already have in the hospital. These devices are free and simple to deploy and use.

Currently we are shipping devices to hospitals that want to collaborate with us. We’re in various stages of partnerships with a variety of organizations, including University of California, Berkeley; University of California, San Francisco; and University of Miami. Additionally, health officials from other countries, like Brazil, have reached out.

We also are reaching out to the American Hospital Association anticipating that they will be able to direct hospitals across the nations to the registry at so they can utilize the supply of devices that folks all over America have been donating.

We’re also getting a lot of offers for donations. So far, we’ve received about 2000 device donations through our website. We've also been asked to work with the DOD to contact VA hospitals to access an initial 500 devices through their system. Unlike insurance providers, the VA rolls over their sleep apnea machines every few years, so there appears there will be a very large supply of relatively new machines.

Meanwhile, we are actively working with a large logistics company to provide a solution to rapidly pick up home sleep apnea devices and deliver them to hospitals. It is our hope that a logistic company will also provide ready access to supply chains that can provide the additional parts needed by hospitals.

And finally, we’ve also been getting great coverage in the news media, with appearances on ABC7 News , KNTV/NBC News and KRON4 News as well as articles in publications including Wired, San Francisco Chronicle, TechCrunch, SF Business Times, SFGate, Forbes, FierceHealthcare, FierceElectronics, Yahoo Finance!.

Help us get the word out by sharing this post on social media and elsewhere!


By Bryan Martel

America is facing an unprecedented health emergency right now and it’s about to get worse. Hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients and they lack the necessary equipment to care for them all. Specifically, hospitals don’t have enough ventilators, which are critical devices that help patients breathe when they can’t do so on their own. The new coronavirus can cause acute respiratory distress syndrome, which means infected patients have trouble breathing and ventilators are needed to save their lives.

As COVID-19 infections rise, many hospitals are finding they don’t have enough ventilators to meet the demand. If the devices are all being used by the growing numbers of coronavirus patients, that means there aren’t any for other patients, such as those who are in a coma, have a collapsed lung, just got out of surgery -- or for any of the myriad other non-COVID-19 reasons patients need them on a daily basis. This is a vital piece of equipment for doctors to have and hospitals are trying to get ahold of them.

Citizens can help by providing unused sleep apnea machines to be repurposed to mimic ventilators.

Italy has been dealing with the same issue, just about a month or so ahead of the U.S. There are gut-wrenching stories about Italian epidemiologists weeping in hallways over the difficult choices they were forced to make about which patients got the life-saving ventilators and which had to go without. “There is no way to find an exception,” Dr. L. told a journalist for the New England Journal of Medicine. “We have to decide who must die and whom we shall keep alive.”

To help the U.S. avoid that sobering reality, a group of us in the San Francisco Bay Area — doctors dedicated to keeping people healthy, engineers who know how to build and fix things, and other people passionate about helping the community — banded together to help the government address the ventilator shortage. We collaborated on a method to essentially turn everyday, off-the-shelf sleep apnea devices into ventilators by attaching an endotracheal tube to them so they can mimic the function of a ventilator and get oxygen into the lungs of patients.

And now we -- the COVID-19 Ventilator Rapid Response Team* -- would like to help the government get devices retrofitted and into the hands of doctors and nurses on the coronavirus front lines in hospitals around the country. This is our call to action for citizens and companies and officials to work together to solve this critical, but solvable, problem.

First, we’re hoping for fast-tracked government approval for the devices. Government regulations restrict the development and use of medical devices for purposes for which they were not designed, but the Food and Drug Administration has issued new guidance in light of the ventilator shortage. Now, sleep apnea machines can be used to treat patients infected by COVID-19. We believe our devices meet the criteria. We need to get them on the Emergency Use Authorization list so they are approved for use in hospitals. Traditional FDA approvals can take months, if not years, but we haven’t got that much time. Doctors need these devices available in weeks, not months. Every week they wait will mean more lives lost.

Secondly, we want to help the White House and federal and state officials to get device manufacturers and logistics companies on board so the device repurposing can be done quickly and at scale. We’re hoping that local and state governments can help us make this happen by encouraging expedited approval and enlisting the aid of device manufacturers, logistics providers and a workforce for retrofits and distribution.

Finally, we’ll take all the help we can get. If you have a sleep apnea device in your closet that you’re not using, we’ll take it. If your company has a supply in their warehouse, we’ll take it. Ventilators are in very short supply, with national reserves much lower than projected demand. At this point, every device helps the cause. So, we are asking our fellow citizens to:

  • Reach out to their state governors, federal legislators and White House officials to urge them to approve these devices quickly and work with manufacturers and a workforce to get them retrofitted and supplied to hospitals, and;
  • Donate any surplus sleep apnea devices (aka CPAP/BIPAP machines) by using this website:

​This is a serious option to solve the ventilator shortage and it can help solve this problem and save thousands of lives that would otherwise be imperiled. We can’t let patients die because of lack of access to a device that can be created by repurposing FDA-approved sleep apnea machines that exist in abundance. We look forward to doing our part to help the nation during this crisis and supporting the government officials that have the power to make this a reality. We know the government is looking at many other options. We hope this provides another useful choice. The pandemic shows how we are all in this together; the solution can, too.

*The COVID-19 Ventilator Rapid Response Team includes:
Bertram Lubin, MD, Professor Emeritus, UC San Francisco
Ajay Dharia, MD, Pulmonary Critical Care, Staff Physician, Mills Peninsula Hospital
Karl A. van Bibber, Professor, Department of Nuclear Engineering, UC Berkeley
Grace O’Connell, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, UC Berkeley
Glen Stevick, PhD, Berkeley Engineering and Research, Inc.
David Butze, Member of Stand Together Foundation
Bryan Martel, PE retired, Berkeley Engineering and Research,Inc.