Intubation Box

A completed protective aerosol box, designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from patients to healthcare workers during intubation.

Several Northwest Arkansas companies worked to create and donate reusable protective boxes for intubation to local hospitals to help prevent medical workers from contracting COVID-19.

Companies including Roark, Resource Design, Timbernak, Early Bird Creative, AMP Sign and Banner have helped create 47 aerosol boxes to donate to Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas and Arkansas Children’s Northwest, said Dayton Castleman, aerosol box project manager and director of visual thinking at Resource Design.

The clear, acrylic boxes are put over a patient's head and shoulders during an intubation, Fankhauser said. This lowers the risk of patients getting medical staff sick by creating an extra layer of protection against the virus

Intubation is a process where medical workers insert a tube through a patient’s mouth to open the airway and attach the tube to a ventilator, which mechanically breathes for the patient.

The process can be messy and medical staff can contract COVID-19 through saliva from the patients, Gordon said.

“Sometimes you have patients that are semi-conscious that are fighting you,” Gordon said. “So (doctors are) working, the patient is aspirating–there's a lot of spit going everywhere.”

Castleman wanted to create a project that could serve the community and help local medical staff, because if doctors lose their health, it will negatively affect everyone, Castleman said.

“Protecting them; I can't think of a better way to participate in an active way in the fight against this thing,” Castleman said.

With the help of liaison Joel Fankhauser, a doctor at Direct Care Clinic of Northwest Arkansas, the project began March 21, Castleman said.

Jason McKinney, a doctor at Mercy Hospital, told Fankauser that doctors needed aerosol boxes to protect themselves from COVID-19, Fankhauser said. McKinney wanted Castleman’s help to recreate aerosol boxes that Hsien Yung Lai, a doctor in Taiwan, had invented.

“That was really what kick-started the process to try to create one of these acrylic boxes and get it into the doctor's hands so that he could use it and see if it would be useful,” Castleman said.

The project team sent 29 boxes to Mercy Hospital and 18 boxes to Arkansas Children’s Northwest, Castleman said.

Joel Gordon, making and tinkering manager at Amazeum, created the first prototype for the box, Gordon said. Gordon wanted to do everything he could to help medical workers, because there are people across the nation working to help medical staff fight the pandemic, he said.

“There's a huge community of people that are doing amazing work,” Gordon said. “And that is, first and foremost, the first responders and the doctors who are risking their lives.”

Gordon created the first prototype for the box March 24 in under two hours at his home, he said.

Gordon brought the first prototype to Mercy Hospital and doctors tested it and gave him feedback, Gordon said. Gordon used the feedback to adjust the box and create a new design, he said. He shared files of the new design online for free so people across the nation could use the designs to help fight the pandemic, he said.

The project team was able to produce the first 25 boxes free of charge because of donations from local companies, Castleman said. The boxes cost $1,500 for 30 and the other 22 boxes were covered from fundraising through Facebook, he said.

The team has funding available to build 30 more boxes, but because materials are running low, they will only build them at the request of hospitals, Castleman said.

“We’re responding to the hospitals, not trying to sell these things,” Castleman said. “I want them to be aware that we can work on getting it to the hospital but just really responding to needs.”

Companies like Roark, the project’s largest contributor, cut and assembled the boxes for free, Castleman said.

Gordon hopes that the aerosol boxes and the combined efforts of people across the nation will help to save lives during the pandemic, he said.

“It's not about an intubation box,” Gordon said. “It's not about anybody's work, certainly not what I've done. I’ve done one thing and I'm doing in my limited ability, what I can to help others, but there are hundreds of thousands of people who are doing so much more than that.”

Abby Zimmardi is the multimedia editor for the Arkansas Traveler, where she previously worked as a staff reporter.

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