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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

From left: Councillor Lucy Taylor, Councillor Barry Banford, Councillor Bill Haring, Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Councillor Lynne Frizzle, Councillor Lyle Mckenzie and Councillor Shelley Sim. (District of Clearwater photo)
Council to consider raising taxes in 2021

The District of Clearwater council is considering a tax increase this year… Continue reading

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Interior Health reported 43 new COVID-19 cases in the region Feb. 23, 2021 and no additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
43 new cases of COVID reported in Interior Health

No new deaths, Williams Lake outbreak over

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Vancouver International Women in Film Festival kicks off March 5.
Women in Film Festival features two B.C. filmmakers

The 16th annual festival kicks off March 5, 2021

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

Most Read