Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Vionarica Gusti tries out the COSMIC Bubble Helmet to see if it is comfortable. (Photo submitted)Vionarica Gusti tries out the COSMIC Bubble Helmet to see if it is comfortable. (Photo submitted)

A Williams Lake physician is collaborating with a Vancouver-based non-profit organization to develop a helmet-based ventilation system for patients with COVID-19.

Dr. Ivan Scrooby said the group — COSMIC Medical — came together to develop devices to treat patients with the virus and the bubble helmet was one of the ideas they came up with.

“The concept is not widely accepted as a form of treatment yet, and is used more so in Europe than in North America,” Scrooby said.

Other clinical support for the group has come from Dr. Chris Nguan at Vancouver General Hospital, Dr. Neilson J. Mclean at Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre and Dr. Avinash K. Sinha from Montreal, Scrooby said.

Vionarica Gusti, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia, said when news about the pandemic first emerged from Italy, showing patients in hospital hallways being managed with bubble helmets, she and some other people wondered if something similar could be made in B.C.

They began experimenting with a 3D printer and rallying around the community to see who could help them.

Describing the bubble helmet as a simple concept, Gusti said multiple patients can be helped and supported at the same time while minimizing the aerosol particles that the patients exude with COVID-19.

In pandemic situations where there is limited critical care resources, the technology they’ve come up with could be very valuable, she added.

Through the 3D design the group realized the helmet was uncomfortable because it had a rigid ring that goes around the neck.

“We want patients to be able to lay down and sleep comfortably,” Gusti explained.

She reached out to someone in Smithers, B.C. who specializes in developing inflatable rafts that helped as well as SEI Industries in Delta, B.C. for help in developing the hood.

Several volunteers stepped up including medical students, doctors and engineers to help with the project.

Now the group wants to make more helmets, test them and generate solid data to see if the design is feasible.

Because everything is soft and very easy to package, the helmets would not take up much room to store in a hospital and then be connected to wall oxygen units when needed.

“Now we have to finalize the design and continue on to using the device in a clinical trial and we have Health Canada approval now to proceed to a clinical trial,” Scrooby said, adding they still need ethics approval from health authorities where they plan to do the human trials.

Gusti wore it for two hours and found it comfortable, she said, adding if it does eventually go to market it will be the first open-source, community-driven product.

It doesn’t have a patent-right on it and Scrooby said if a company gets involved it won’t have the sole right to sell the product.

COSMIC is an open source group, he noted, adding the idea was to create devices that would be available to anyone in the world to treat COVID-19 with.

“It is a little harder to get funding and we are trying to manufacture a device that currently isn’t available in North America and isn’t widely used by physicians.”

Gusti was in Williams Lake in December doing a residency with Scrooby, and that was the first time she and he met in person.

Philip Edgcumbe, a Vancouver-based diagnostic radiology resident, has been with COSMIC since its inception after being invited by Dr. Chris Nguan of Vancouver General Hospital to participate.

“Chris thought it would be best to see if we could engineer, design, build equipment locally to prevent us from running out if the COVID wave was really bad and we ended up with lots of patients in the hospital,” said Edgcumbe, who along with Alexander Waslen and Nguan co-founded COSMIC.

Read more: ‘It’s job No. 1 right now’: Harmac Pacific providing pulp for critical medical supplies

They put out invitations through social media to ask others to join and as it was a ‘unique time’ with lots of people sheltering at home, not able to do the work they would normally do, they were keen to focus on the COVID-19 response.

“At our peak we probably had 100 to 150 active contributors, so we had lots of different projects on the go, including a ventilator and the bubble helmet.”

While he wasn’t involved with the creation side of equipment, Edgcumbe focused on ways for 100 strangers to collaborate in a productive way.

Several teams were formed and they communicated through virtual platforms.

“We drew clinicians from across Canada who would give Dragons Den-style feedback to the team leads to help them iterate and improve.”

The group received some generous donations from individuals which enabled the purchase of some supplies for prototyping and Edgcumbe noted in total they raised about $40,000 and are hoping to gather more funds.

“Work continues and we are stretching those dollars as far as possible.”

Valuing Scrooby’s involvement with the collaboration, he said it allows the group to understand the clinical needs beyond the kind of big centres that most of them are working in.

“The story remains to be written to see the product in action, but I think potentially it will be most useful in rural or medium sized communities and we really would have only had that perspective through the work we’ve done with Dr. Scrooby and insights into the needs of a community like Williams Lake.”

He said it’s been a ‘great’ example of how there can be learning going in both directions from big cities and smaller communities.

Describing Scrooby as having a ‘can-do’ attitude, who has to make it work based on the resources available, Edgcumbe said he did a third year rural medicine residency with Dr. Scrooby in Williams Lake in 2018.

Edgcumbe was given the task by Scrooby of reading In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Dr. Gabor Maté, that examines the nature of addiction.

“He lent me a dog-eared copy of the book that he gives to all the medical students he works with and then at the end he encourages everyone to write a little note inside the front of the book.”

Edgcumbe said his experience with Dr. Scrooby continues to inform his own practice in medicine down at St. Paul’s Hospital where staff deals with addictions all the time.

Read more: Hometown: the doctor is in the house



news@wltribune.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirusmedical devicesWilliams Lake

Just Posted

Port Alberni’s Isha Rai picked up her Coldest Night of the Year toque outside of the ACAWS office on Saturday. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Nine-year-old raises $3K for Coldest Night of the Year

Port Alberni’s Isha Rai was highest-earning participant in annual fundraiser

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
Vancouver Island children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of Vancouver Island’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
Vancouver Island woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Views of Nanaimo, Newcastle Channel and the Strait of Georgia from the Nanaimo Parkway. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Editorial: Each resident has a say in how this city of 100,000 grows

City of Nanaimo wants to hear from residents as transition from small town to big city continues

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

The Township of Esquimalt will finalize its plastic bag ban in March, after receiving approval from the province for its proposed bylaw. (THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo/Paul Chiasson)
Plastic bag ban coming soon to Esquimalt

Municipality set to enact bylaw outlawing single-use bags in March

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

The Campbell River Rotary Community Fieldhouse solar installation is designed to offset the energy use of the fieldhouse and the turf lights surrounding the field. Photo contributed
Solar power charges up Campbell River fieldhouse

Robron turf field building eneergized thanks to community partnership

West Coast-themed metal art by Nanaimo artists Hayley Willoughby (pictured), her father Jack and partner Blair LeFebvre is on display in the window of Lululemon at Woodgrove Centre from now until March 13 as part of the store’s monthly local artist program. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Metal artists present cross-generational show at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre

Work by Hayley Willoughby, her partner and father on display in Lululemon window

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Amy Morrison was surprised to find a note on her windshield for parking on a public street with no restrictions in south Oak Bay where she works. (Amy Morrison Photo)
Note left for Oak Bay resident ignites debate about on-street parking

‘You must have noticed, we park in front of OUR HOUSE,’ note writer says

Most Read