Donation Drive Story
How did this all begin?
March 1, 2020
As the world's attention started focusing on the shortage of ventilators, we started talking with pulmonologists to understand what existing devices could be used in hospitals in the face of a ventilator shortage. It turns out that home-use CPAP and BiPAP devices, commonly used to treat sleep apnea among other respiratory issues, have a lot in common with ventilators. We learned from industry statistics that there are 8.5 million sleep apnea in the United States, and almost 3 million of them are not in use. These extra machines could be donated by willing owners, refurbished and brought to hospitals to help provide additional respiratory equipment and give doctors the flexibility to free up time on the hospital ventilators. We started working with doctors in NY who had developed protocols for using home-use machines to treat COVID patients, and to get those machines locally, we started planning a donation drive in Providence, Rhode Island to collect unused machines from the community.
Hope Artiste Village - our first drop off point.
March 29, 2020
We installed our first donation drop off shed at Hope Artiste Village and released a call-to-action email blast to a select group of contacts from our own networks of individuals and organizations based in Rhode Island. With our limited capacity in mind, this was our way to measure the ratio of outreach and response, to anticipate how to handle the incoming donations appropriately.
Within two days, we were thrilled to receive 12 donated machines. However, due to the stay-at-home executive order released by Governor Raimundo's office, we decided to shut down our donation drive abruptly to prioritize safety and discourage donors from leaving their homes. We had to figure out an alternative plan that will allow people to donate safely.
The beauty of being in a small state like Rhode Island, is having a tight-knit community that supports each other. After a few days of sharing our plan with friends, we got invited to be a part of the state-run Ventilator Shortage Working Group.
April 18, 2020
Going statewide: After coordinating with the Rhode Island ventilator shortage working group, we collectively joined forces with the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island Commerce Corp to resume the donation drive at the statewide scale.
Fire stations collect: This state collaboration provided resources that allowed the community to safely donate to willing fire stations that hosted our donation boxes in 27 different towns in Rhode Island. A logistics company truck collected the donations daily and delivered it to our processing site in URI.
Sterile procedure protocol: In preparation for our processing site, we consulted an epidemiologist from Brown University to write a sterile procedure protocol that would guide the operations safely.
Refurbishing donated machines: Technical volunteers comprised of URI students and civilians cleaned and test the machines. Volunteers from Absolute Respiratory Care, a local Durable Medical Equipment company, came to show us the refurbishing process they do professionally and to set up the production line to refurbish units at scale.