The “Project Draw Breath” team from the Cowichan Valley is expanding its efforts to help the medical system and the community during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
The team, from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, is still working through the bureaucracy with Island Health to have clinical tests for the working ventilator masks that it had developed and created with 3D printers.
The masks are intended to help, if necessary, with any shortage of ventilators at the Cowichan District Hospital and on the Island to deal with severe respiratory illnesses related to COVID-19 that could arise.
But, while that’s happening, spokeswoman Donna Shaw said the team, which began with just three members on March 23 and has now expanded to 10 experts in a number of related fields, has begun work on a number of new projects intended to help hospitals and medical facilities get through the growing crisis.
Shaw said the team has developed easy-to-construct plastic face shields that are in great demand by the medical community around the world during the crisis, and has sterilization equipment in its newly established lab so that they can be reused.
The first batch of 20 of the face masks have already been delivered to the on-call emergency dentists of the Cowichan Valley, who work from Mill Bay to Chemainus.
“We’ve also been collecting CPAC [continuous positive airway pressure] machines from those in the community who no longer need them, and their parts will be used to make medical equipment, such as makeshift ventilators,” Shaw said.
“We’ve collected quite a few CPAC machines already and they are in the process of being sterilized. The Cowichan District Hospital has its own ventilators and the hope is that they won’t need ours, but we don’t know what’s coming with this health crisis.”
The team originated with Shaw, a member of the product design team at Live Edge Design, which usually specializes in building custom-made wood furniture, retired Dr. Richard Walton (Bsc, MSc, Peng, PhD) and Lehanna Green who was brought on the team for her communication and marketing skills.
“I started thinking about the lack of ventilators on Vancouver Island as the COVID-19 virus spread,” Shaw said.
“We have access to 3D printers at Live Edge Design and my colleagues jumped at the chance to be involved in this project. I knew Richard [Walton] as a neighbour and was always amazed by him, and he said he was up to the challenge as well. We’ve expanded a lot in just a few days and the community has been great in helping us with our efforts.”
Shaw said that should any local manufacturers of medical supplies such as scrub caps and masks, who are trying to help keep up with demand, like to take advantage of sterilization and packaging of their products, Dr. Walton and the Project Draw Breath team are happy to help as a cost-free community service.
She said the efforts of the team are not meant to make a profit and, at this stage, it is being funded solely by Walton and donors, so the team has set up an email for donations at firstname.lastname@example.org to help with the bills, including the costs of lab equipment.
There are also other ways to help and if anyone has a 3D printer and would like to join the team, the team is collecting details should it need to drastically increase production.
For more information visit, www.facebook.com/projectdrawbreath.