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Atlanta students pitch in to make intubation boxes in fight against COVID-19

A local high school worked together with a national clinical firm to fabricate intubation boxes in the fight against coronavirus.

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Madi Anderson works at The Weber School in Sandy Springs, Georgia as a fabrication lab manager in the Daniel J. Zalik Academy.  

With schools closed due to Georgia's shelter-in-place orders, Anderson wanted to aid in the battle against COVID-19

She says one of the core principles of the class she teaches is for students to find a problem in their local community and try to solve it.  

Her classroom contains several pieces of high-tech equipment that was sitting unused, when she heard through a friend that someone was looking for help to build intubation boxes; a medical apparatus originally designed and developed in Taiwan. 

The virus COVID-19 causes respiratory distress which often requires intubation.

That's where physicians insert a flexible tube into the trachea of infected patients so they can be connected to a mechanical ventilator.

Since the virus is spread through the air, a box made of acrylic or plexiglass with two openings can be placed between the physician and patient during the intubation process.

Dr. Brett Cannon, divisional president for ApolloMD needed 21 boxes to be made and wanted to partner with an area school.

Anderson quickly called up Cannon to discuss the project parameters and explain what her facility could offer.  Liking what he heard, Cannon gave it the green light.

Working from an open-source diagram, along with input from Dr. Cannon, Anderson would have to modify the box design to accommodate the specific needs of local doctors and physicians.

She also had to figure out how to obtain supplies needed to build the box.

"We have all the machines," said Anderson, "but because of the exact thickness of the acrylic that we are using for these boxes, we didn't actually have them in stock."  

Anderson and Cannon got help from local vendor Curbell Plastics who provided a large discount on acrylic sheets.  Some of The Weber School parents used their personal connections to executives at The Home Depot, who in turn helped connect the group to a few of its own vendors. 

RELATED: Coronavirus in Georgia: Confirmed cases jump to 13,315 with 464 deaths

With supplies in place they could now begin work.

Anderson and her team would use a pair of high-powered laser cutters to cut large sheets of acrylic down to size. Once complete, they carefully assembled each piece with a special glue.

They also attached silicone mattes around two armholes on each box.

"The laser cutters can get an entire box cut out within about 10 minutes using both of them, Anderson recalls, "But the assembly does take longer because you have to let things cure overnight." 

Despite the time-consuming manufacturing process, the group succeeded in crafting the 21 intubation boxes, which will be distributed to the emergency departments and the critical care areas of 10 hospitals in the Wellstar Health System.

Doctors there plan to try them out and offer feedback which could be used to create design modifications.

According to Anderson, clinical tests show intubation boxes can trap about 90% of respiratory droplets.

Dr. Cannon calls The Weber School a fantastic partner. For Anderson, the process has been both rewarding and a source of relief. Her mother works in health care and news about the lack personal protection equipment hit home in more ways than one.

"For me it was kinda coming from a personal place of, I'm anxious, I want to help my mom."  

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information. 

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information.

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