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Innovation keeps frontline medics better protected from COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jonathon Carnell
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Team Travis Airmen prototyped personal protective equipment April 17 to help base medics safely treat and transport potential coronavirus patients.

Members of the 60th Medical Group emergency department at David Grant USAF Medical Center joined forces with the 60th Maintenance and the 60th Operations Support Squadrons, all here, to develop an isolation pod and an intubation protection box.

An isolation pod includes an enclosed gurney, a wheeled stretcher medics use to transport hospital patients. A intubation protection box, a portable transparent box that serves as a physical barrier between health care professionals and patients, limiting airborne pathogens to the confines of the box.

“These products have functionality not only for the coronavirus pandemic, but also for any airborne illnesses we could encounter in the future,” said Tech. Sgt. James Martin, 60th MDG emergency department shift leader.

Designing the isolation pod and the intubation box was a team effort and had its challenges, said Capt. Gabrial Marcus, 60th MXG maintenance operations officer.

“Our biggest challenge was incorporating the mitigation of contaminates into our design while using materials we had on-hand,” said Tech. Sgt. March Tighe 60th Maintenance Squadron metals technology craftsman. “We needed to minimize the use of fasteners and any cracks or crevices where contaminates could survive during DECON procedures. Strictly incorporating the needs of our medical professionals, while designing a product that was structurally sound and functional, allowed us to take our profession to the next level.” 

Producing the intubation box took eight days and the isolation pod required 10 days.

“(For the isolation pod) we spent one day determining the requirements and one day manufacturing the frame with aircraft structural maintenance,” Tighe said. “From there, we passed off the gurney to aircrew flight equipment in order to have a clear covering manufactured to help contain suspected contaminates during the transportation of patients.”

During the production of the isolation pod, the team also spent time manufacturing the components of the intubation protection box and sealing them together, Tighe said.

“From there we designed arm seals that were installed by aircraft structural maintenance so our medical professionals are protected during intubation procedures,” Tighe continued.

The products have not been used yet; however, both are held at DGMC and are ready for use when needed, Martin said.

“Designs that prove to be effective will be shared across organizations in the military and in our community to deliver safer health care,” Martin said. “We are sharing the designs with Wright-Patterson (Air Force Base, Ohio).

The COVID-19 pandemic  led to a collaboration between maintainers and medical professionals that might not otherwise have happened, Martin said. Creating PPE alternatives has demonstrated how Travis’ total force units are able to work together for one common goal: design and prototype personal protective equipment for medics treating potential coronavirus infected patients.

“The opportunity to leverage our skills to aid in the fight against COVID-19 ignited a fire in us like no other,” Tighe said. “This fire was not only fueled by the needs of the world, but it was also personal in knowing we could potentially be saving the lives of friends and family.”