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 dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

Princeton has seen a 22 per cent drop in drug overdose fatalities in 2020. (File photo)
While B.C. overdose deaths soar, Princeton made a recovery in 2020

Between 2018 and 2020, eight Princeton residents died of suspected overdose.

Send your letter to the editor via email to news@summerlandreview.com. Please included your first and last name, address, and phone number.
LETTER: Options available for medical care

Telephone and online methods allow people to contact doctors

Youth from Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton and the Kootenays were able to dig into two evenings of online learning and connection through United Way Southern Interior B.C.’s <CODE>anagan program. (Submitted)<code> </code>
CODEanagan gives youth a chance to learn about technology

The youth, aged 12 to 21, built their own WordPress sites and developed blogging ideas

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

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here are the stories that made waves in the Okanagan-Shuswap

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Arrow Lakes Caribou Society said the new caribou pen near the Nakusp Hotsprings is close to completion. (Submitted)
Maternity caribou pen near Nakusp inches closer to fruition

While Nakusp recently approved the project’s lease, caribou captures are delayed due to COVID-19

BC Housing has proposed that the emergency winter shelter at Victory Church at 352 Winnipeg Street be extended as a shelter until March 31, 2022. It was originally intended to be open until April 1, 2021. (Jesse Day - Western News)
One more year of ‘temporary’ homeless shelter in Penticton?

BC Housing has applied to extend Victory Church as a shelter for those experiencing homelessness

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

Most Read