A Central Valley man is part of a team which has designed and is building Lexan boxes to large enough to cover the head region and upper chest of a body, giving first responders and health care workers additional protection as they care for sick patients.
The catch .... is that there’s absolutely no catch.
Dr. Jim Whitfield, along with colleagues Jack Teadore, Adrian Tickering and Dr. David Moskowitz, want to give these boxes away to any emergency medical service or hospital which wants to use them for patient care.
Whitfield is confident these essential care workers would have additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on their mobile units or in a hospital setting. And he wants those organizations to know about their availability.
Lexan is a polycarbonate resin thermoplastic and when fully formed, the polycarbonate sheet has an impact strength 250 times greater than glass and 30 times greater than that of acrylic, a similar thermoplastic. Kitchen items, bulletproof glass and headlamps are among the many everyday products used with this material.
“The box lies over the patient, and covers him down to about his chest, with two holes in the back for the doctor or EMS worker to put their hands through,” said Whitfield. “If you needed to intubate the patient, or touch the patient for any reason, you’re fully protected. I want to get the word out to local medical professionals and ambulance corps that we are building these and have them reach out to us to obtain one, or at least try one, to see if it works for them.”
The Woodbury Ambulance Corps is using one, with Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern and Clara Maas Hospital in Bellville, N.J., using the others.
The design is readily available online, and when the foursome found it, they immediate decided to begin building them.
“We saw some that were out there, but they were kind of lower quality," said Whitfield. "Almost disposable. I was fortunate enough to have a benefactor who put up some money for us to manufacture them.”
Connections also helped.
Whitfield, who teaches biology and anatomy/physiology at Pascack Hill High School in Montvale, N.J., is also the coach of the 2017 world champion FIRST Robotics Team. Through his robotics work, he had contacts at Dimensional Communications’ world headquarters in Mahwah, N.J. Dimensional is a recognized leader in integrated design build solutions.
“Three of their sons were on my robotics team,” Whitfield said. “We had their attention. This is what they do for a living. You give them a CAD file and they build it. They’ve been making these for us in two variations, one for a bed and a smaller one that fits a gurney in an ambulance.”
The team’s benefactor covers the per box cost of $350 (no markup).
“Everybody’s’ doing something (during the COVID-19 pandemic),” said Whitfield. “We have access to some money and a company that will do this, make this really nice box. It’s all open source, we don’t want a patent, we’re not charging for them and we’re not making any money. The company has been making them at cost, and we’ve been getting the money from the benefactor. I want Mobile Life, Monroe, KJ ambulance corps and others to know if they want to ‘test drive’ this, and if they like it, we want to give it to them.”
Whitfield’s wife is a Woodbury Ambulance Corps member, and she tells him difficult stories about caring for COVD-19 patients.
“She’s potentially exposed,” said Whitfield. “And as someone who works in the scientific field, I read about this all the time. All those people printing those 3D shield straps, everybody’s trying to do what they can. Even though it seems to be a little (COVD-19) downturn now, it’d be nice if, come the fall and if there’s another uptake, everyone’s already prepared.”
The team has enough funding to cover the costs for another 10 to 12 boxes. If the interest catches on, Whitfield’s not worried about funding because he has a colleague who is a crowd-sourcing specialist and can raise additional funds.
“That’s the best situation problem,” Whitfield said, adding he’ll deliver the boxes to whoever requests one.
“The box protects the people in the hospital or in the ambulance,” Whitfield said. “All we want to do is help. If everybody does a little bit, then lots of good things can get done. Some people can do more than others, but everyone should do something.”
To find out how to get a box, call Whitfield at 845-764-2160.