Engineers turn breast pumps into ventilators

ST. MARY’S COUNTY, Md. (WBAL/CNN) – Amid a coronavirus pandemic that’s created a worldwide shortage of medical equipment and supplies, engineers are getting creative to help fulfill the needs of health care providers.

A group of engineers turns old breast pumps into ventilators. (Source: WBAL, Hearst)

They did it by turning breast pumps, an item many mothers have at home, into much-needed ventilators.

"Just as a mom, I spent a lot of time with those devices,” said engineer Brandi Gerstner.

That familiarity got her thinking: Would it be possible to turn a breast pump’s suction power into something that pushes out air instead?

As it turns out, with a sharp knife and a Phillips head screwdriver, you can.

Still, it takes a lot more than that to create a ventilator from a breast pump.

The engineering group is consulting with pulmonologists to make sure they’re on the right track.

Ventilators are very technical pieces of equipment that require plenty of sensors. They also have to be made so they can be disassembled and sanitized.

After the kinks are worked out, the engineers are hoping to get fast-track approval from the Food and Drug Administration to get their makeshift ventilators to hospitals.

“If we can have engineers duplicate our efforts across the country so that ventilators can be used in other states quickly and manufactured there quickly, we would love that,” said fellow engineer Rachel Labatt.

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