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

Various Victoria locations were hit with a slew of anti-bylaw graffiti Wednesday. This image has been altered to cover up profane language. (Submitted photo)
PHOTOS: Victoria hit with slew of anti-bylaw graffiti

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized

A pedestrian pushing two children in a stroller was struck by a driver while crossing a Highway 1 off-ramp at Burnside Road West on Feb. 24. (Google Streetview)
UPDATED: Pedestrian with two children in stroller struck in Saanich crosswalk after driver failed to yield

No serious injuries reported, driver issued $167 ticket under Motor Vehicle Act, police say

West Shore RCMP headquarters in Langford. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP arrests two suspects in connection to View Royal arson

Investigators determined the fire was deliberately set, targeted

David Wighton is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as the winner of the Coaches Award. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Life-changing lessons shared after 55-year coaching career

David Wighton is the 2021 recipient of the Local Hero Coaches Award

Sooke Road was down to single lane alternating traffic after a motor vehicle incident Wednesday morning. (Google Maps)
UPDATED: Sooke Road reopen after motor vehicle incident

Emergency crews were on scene of Wednesday morning incident

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix wore pink shirts to showcase this year’s motto: “Lift each other up.” (Twitter/PinkShirtDay)
PHOTOS: B.C. celebs take a stand against bullying on Pink Shirt Day

‘We need to let young people know they are not alone and they can reach out to others for help’

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Justin Morissette is still recovering from the injuries sustained in the altercation. He is not yet able to walk without assistance. (Justin Morissette, Twitter)
B.C. man suing city and police over violent altercation with anti-LGBTQ preacher

Justin Morissette argues police knew the threat the preacher posed, and failed to keep the peace

Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)
COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

Temporary changes to allow for wholesale pricing for the hospitality industry were implemented June 2020 and set to expire March 31.	(Pixabay photo)
Pubs, restaurants to pay wholesale prices on liquor permanently in COVID-recovery

Pre-pandemic, restaurateurs and tourism operators paid full retail price on most liquor purchases

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

Most Read