UTMB doctors create makeshift ventilator to help during shortage

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- From the idea phase to testing, it took two UTMB doctors three days to create a ventilator that can be used in hospitals experiencing a shortage.

The life-saving device looks nothing like a normal ventilator.

Dr. Christopher Zahner, who is an assistant professor of clinical pathology at UTMB, and Aisen Caro Chachin, PHD., the lead designer and developer for UTMB, found the components in their medical supply cabinet.

"The system works with a blood pressure cuff. So if you've ever had your blood pressure taken, you know they inflate a bag around your arm," Chachin said. "It also works with an Ambu bag, which is a resuscitation bag, and it is in every unit."

They used a device to power the mechanism that can be found at a supply store.

"Maybe some of your high school kids already know how to use it and work with it," Chachin said. "It is an engineering kit that teaches people how to develop electronics."

Dr. Zahner and Chachin hope to present their device to the UTMB Medical Board so it can be used in hospitals worldwide. They said that could happen as quickly as two weeks from now.

The pair said they are looking to partner with engineers or an engineering college, as well as hobbyists to put together the electronic side. The doctors said it will take someone about one day to put one together.

As impressive as their device is, Dr. Zahner and Chachin said they hope hospitals do not get to the point where they need to use their device.

"It's extremely exciting that we might be a small part of a solution for a worldwide problem, and that is what is inspiring us to do the work," Dr. Zahner said.

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