Idaho Plays a Bigger Role in the Fight Against COVID-19 than You Know
If you've found yourself watching quite a bit of coverage about the coronavirus pandemic, there's no doubt you've heard ventilators mentioned time and time again. Did you know their creation can be linked back to a famous Idahoan?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, in severe cases COVID-19 can cause something called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS.) ARDS damages the air sacs in your lungs that play a major role in getting oxygen into your blood stream and can make it extremely hard to breathe. Ventilators help patients breathe. They can push highly concentrated oxygen where it needs to be and remove carbon dioxide. You may have learned that by watching pandemic coverage.
What you may not have known is that modern day ventilators were the brain child of a man who called Idaho home from the late 70s until the time he passed away at the age of 94 in 2015. His name was Dr. Forrest Bird and he was the founder of Percussionaire in northern Idaho.
Bird, the son of a WWI pilot, shared his father's love of aviation. During WWII he served in the Army Air Corp. While spending time with a captured German plane, Bird came across a demand oxygen regulator that didn't really provide much of a benefit when it came to helping a pilot breathe. Confident that he could do better, he took it home to continue to examine, experiment on and perfect. That led to him creating a very early model of the ventilator that made breathing a little easier for a friend suffering from emphysema.
During the 1950s polio epidemic, Bird built Mark 7, a box sized ventilator, to help patients wean themselves off of being dependent on the cumbersome iron lungs of the day. According to Percussionaire's website, because of its reliability Bird's invention went on to be the first mass-produced modern ventilator. In the late 80s, he discovered something he called Pulsatile Flow Ventilation that not only helps push oxygen to where it was needed the most, but also loosens and carries away the junk like mucus that makes breathing difficult. That gave patient's lungs a real shot at healing after a serious infection.
He founded Percussionaire to help build devices utilizing this new method. Today, Percussionaire is still located in Sandpoint, ID and is playing a major role in the battle against COVID-19. In addition to stepping up production of the products they already make, they've developed a new Emergency ventilator that runs off compressed air and doesn't need electricity. According to an employee's Facebook post the design only took three weeks from design to shipping.
Their employees are working around the clock and they're already 1000 ventilators ahead of GM, Telsa and Ford. They're shipping them to where they're needed most, but were proud to donate some back to rural hospitals in Idaho.
The community's showing the love right back to the employees that are working around the clock 7 days a week. They came together to provide Percussionaire's employees with masks to help keep each other healthy and on the job.