This mama is building coronavirus ventilators from old breast pumps

Mom Brandi Gerstner (with fellow engineers) hacked her old pump for a new purpose.

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As the United States grapples with the coronavirus, it's becoming more apparent that hospitals need to have ventilators to save lives. The Society of Critical Care Medicine claims that 960,000 coronavirus patients in the United States may need to be put on a ventilator at some point during the outbreak, but sadly our country has only about 200,000.

But in the midst of chaos, a team of engineers in Southern Maryland, believe they can help hospitals save thousands of lives by repurposing breast pumps. Gerstner, along with her husband, Grant Gerstner and Alex Scott and Rachel LaBatt discovered that reversing the suction in the pumps turns them into an "intermittent positive pressure ventilation" device, which is essentially a ventilator.

"A breast pump does pulsing intervals. It is a sanitize-able biomedical device that's approved by the Food and Drug Administration. You know they're reliable, they've been used by moms everywhere for decades. What if I could reverse it," Brandi Gerstner explained to The Bay Net. "What if I could make it blow rather than suck? And so I grabbed my old one from the basement, grabbed a screwdriver and an X-Acto knife. Sure enough, you can turn it around very, very easily."

According to the New York Times, ventilators can cost up to $50,000, but the team's device will be around $500. The next step for the team is to get a review from a pulmonologist so that they can have access to a biomedical simulation laboratory, and ultimately get approval from the FDA.

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"The beauty of looking at breast pumps as a potential solution is, it's a thing that is available for free in a lot of mom's basements and closets." Gerstner says.

It's a journey, but they aren't giving up. "I'm very hopeful that we can find the right collaborators in the biomedical community to get this design validated and replicated as quickly as possible," says Gerstner. "Our 'good' would look like rapidly getting into a high-quality biomedical simulation lab, and getting into a hospital."

To find out how you can contribute to the cause, donate an old breast pump (any model) or support the engineers, contact them at [email protected].

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