Newswise — Northern Michigan University human-centered design professor Peter Pless put his expertise and studio's resources to work developing acrylic hoods that cover patients being intubated in the ER and elsewhere, helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Through a collaboration with Upper Peninsula Health System-Marquette emergency medicine physician Dr. Scott Hagle, the two led a team from NMU, UPHS-Marquette and the community in working on the project.
“Dr. Hagle explained to me that even though patients may be sedated, they can still have a cough reflex that disperses particulates into the air and onto surfaces,” Pless said. “The system we're making is like a shield that protects patients and those doing the intubation procedure. It also uses medical suction to pull away the air underneath the hood so other patients and staff members are not exposed to potentially contaminated air.”
After an initial phone call with Hagle, Pless developed a prototype that was tested and evaluated by UPHS-Marquette Emergency Department personnel. They gave him constructive feedback so he could fine-tune the design. The revised version got the green light for production, so Pless began turning out 21 canopies in his campus studio, with assistance from NMU School of Art & Design colleagues Jason Schneider and Daric Christian.
“We're cutting the raw material to stock size and running the CNC router to cut out the arm holes,” said Pless in the midst of the production cycle. “I'm using a laser cutter for the openings where the components attach, and taking care of the assembly. We're really trying to ramp things up and beat the clock so we can be proactive in supplying UPHS with these units before they're potentially in dire need of them. It's rewarding to know that we have the resources to assist with larger-scale projects like this.”
According to UPHS-Marquette, several of the intubation hoods have already been distributed within the facility and to other Upper Peninsula hospitals, with further sharing in the works. Since finishing the hoods, Pless and Hagle have not slowed down. The duo is now looking at how the design can be modified to help anesthesiology, cardiology and EMS providers. They are also talking with medical professionals in Ann Arbor and Minneapolis to help offer them protection. The team is offering free access to plans at the request of any other hospital.
Others assisted in the effort. Andrea Wrubel, NMU Executive Secretary, cut drapes that cover the access ports and assisted with assembly. Sara Hagle, Scott's wife, produced 90 lbs of weighted fabric belts to place over the patient for a better seal, allowing dangerous aerosols to be suctioned away from the patient and medical providers. Guy Schuil and Bea Schuil worked with Greg Kerwin, an ED RN from UPHS-Marquette, to design graphic instructions and other information distributed with each unit.
“It’s amazing to see our community and our various interests and abilities come together in such a short time to help us protect patients and staff during such difficult times,” Hagle and Pless said. “We are honored to work with such dedicated professionals. It’s a true testament to the spirit of the U.P. and the Marquette community.”