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06th Apr 2020

Engineer mum works on building ventilators from old breast pumps

Melissa Carton

This could be incredibly helpful.

Many hospitals across the globe are struggling to deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

A large part of this struggle is not being able to produce enough medical equipment quickly enough.

This includes, face masks, gloves, other types of protective gear for staff and of course, ventilators.

However, one mother in the United States may have discovered a way to speed up the production of ventilators.

Mum and engineer Brandi Gerstner has been working with her team which includes her husband, Grant Gerstner, Alex Scott and Rachel Labatt to try and create a new type of ventilator by using old breast pumps.

Gerstner discovered that reversing the suction in the pumps turns them into an “intermittent positive pressure ventilation” device, which is essentially a ventilator.

She recently posted a video to YouTube explaining how her idea would work and it looks like she could be on to something.

Gerstner explained in the description of the demonstration why she decided to try and repurpose breast pumps in this way;

 “In order to address the urgent medical crisis for COVID-19, we need a simple design for a medical ventilator which can be rapidly validated, replicated, and distributed to hospitals.

Based on WHO respiratory requirements, I am analyzing the possibility of leveraging the large number of readily available, FDA approved breast pump systems to provide intermittent positive pressure ventilation.

This is the first of several videos exploring that concept and our initial prototype.”

If Gerstner and her team can successfully make ventilators from breast pumps and then share their process with manufacturers around the world, this new discovery could save countless lives.

Over the last few weeks, there have been heartbreaking stories coming from countries like Italy describing how they have had to take older patients off ventilators to save younger patients, something that should never have to be done.

Hopefully, with more engineers coming forward like Gerstner with new ideas and technology, we’ll be able to tackle coronavirus without anyone being left behind.