Keeping busy and paying it forward during shelter-in-place has helped many cope with uncertainty during this unprecedented time. While some Californians are doing their part to help flatten the curve simply by staying at home, others have found ways to donate their time, energy or knowledge.

This all-around novel scenario is one that modern society hasn’t experienced before. Constant connectedness and accessibility to both mainstream and social media, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, coupled with idle time, generates anxiety. But, it’s not all doom and gloom. ‘COVID kindness’ is trending and proving to be a promising emotional contagion.

Ross Liberty, president of Factory Pipe, LLC, asked how he, too, could help. After months of trial and error, his team of skilled laborers and engineers delivered on the hospital’s request for tent brackets.

The simple invention, conceptualized by Registered Respiratory Therapist Supervisor Bobbie Thoman-Boggs, connects to emergency room hospital beds. A single vertical metal pole provides height then bends to hover partially above the patient. Clear plastic drapes over the prototype, creating a tent-like structure similar to a mosquito net canopy. Medical staff can easily reach underneath to administer care.

According to OSHA’s website, droplets containing infectious agents are generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, or during certain medical procedures, such as suctioning or endotracheal intubation. Transmission occurs when droplets generated in this way come into direct contact with the mucosal surfaces of the eyes, nose or mouth of a susceptible individual.

If a COVID-19 positive patient coughs during airway management, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), coupled with the hanging disposable plastic barrier could help minimize employee contact with airborne droplets capable of transmitting the virus.

“Other facilities were just draping clear plastic over patients,” explains Thoman-Boggs. Factory Pipe, LLC’s prototype allows for added security while making patients feel a little more comfortable and a little less claustrophobic. The plastic never touches their face.

“Ross was super positive. He took some measurements and by eight o’clock that night, he was sending me 3D models,” adds the respiratory care practitioner.

3D printing began the next day.

Former Factory Pipe, LLC Design Engineer Jeff Clark provided a variety of prototyping options including CAE (Computer Aided Engineering), FEA (Finite Element Analysis), 3D printed rubber and hard plastics in addition to molding some of the parts. “I wanted to do one last thing for the community,” he says. The mechanical engineer has since relocated to SpaceX in Texas.

Medical staff at Adventist Health Ukiah Valley test the prototype. (Contributed photo)

Programming the machines with the desired measurements proved to be the most time-consuming aspect of the project. From there, tubes are cut to fit into a particular machine. Factory Pipe Tube Department Supervisor Baldomero Castanon and Technician Shane Agnew were responsible for cutting and bending the tubes. “Each piece ran only about 30 seconds to make,” says Agnew.  “It doesn’t take that long to bend the pipe.”

Laser Manager Brent Christensen was tasked with fixturing the bent tubes. Then the tubes were 3D laser trimmed to Liberty’s CAD models. Observing social distancing, the two sent files back and forth via the Internet. “The ‘cut path’ cuts the pieces,” explains Christensen. The laser processing head at the end of a robotic arm does the heavy lifting. “Once you establish you are making good parts and bending good parts, it goes pretty easily.”

The team took turns working inside of the shop adhering to current public health orders as well as other health and safety guidelines.

Looney Tuned Exhaust welded the final pieces together.

Liberty reports that creating custom made supports for the tents helped combat waves of helplessness. The shop owner adds, “It’s just therapy for me and is a small thing.”

Adventist Health Ukiah Valley continues to prepare and modify treatment plans to serve the community and ensure staff and patients remain safe and cared for throughout this ongoing crisis. A spokesperson for the hospital states that while the prototypes have not yet been used on the floor, they remain on site, if needed.

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