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.
A partnership with URI and State of RI Commerce Corp
April 14, 2020
To process these machines efficiently and effectively, the site is designed to have stations dedicated to cleaning and testing the community donated machines. Aside from thoroughly hand wiping the machines again, we've installed an ozone generator to rid the machines of germs. There are many models of varying conditions, that's why it's important that go through a laborious process of making sure the machine work before distributing these to hospitals.
250 units in 3 days
Good Samaritans from Rhode Island and around the country
April 29, 2020
Due to the press release and attention [link to press] we received on the
project, word spread across America and a number of requests from out-of-state donors
were willing to ship their unused machines.
An enthusiastic person eagerly contacted us with 50 donated machines he had collected from his community… in New Jersey! He drove to deliver them to our collection site at the Westerly, RI fire station. We thank you, Tim Hegadorn, for your commitment and support!
Two dentists from Michigan and Connecticut, who also treat sleep apnea in their practice, ran their own donation drive(s) and collectd over 300 machines total and shipped it to our processing center. Thank you for this huge contribution and committed effort, Kathi Wilson and Gemma Kowlek!
May 5, 2020
After over two weeks, we closed the RI Donation Donation Drive. We are grateful to have received over 850 donated machines. About 650 working machines are thoroughly sanitized, checked and boxed up in inventory.
We sincerely thank over a hundred volunteers of students, staff and faculty from URI, fire stations across the state who volunteered to collect donations, and the wonderful folks from Absolute Respiratory Care and Apogee Logistics, who worked together with our team at VentilatorProject.Org to coordinate this drive and refurbishing effort.
On-going work to support COVID-19 response efforts
On May 18, 2020, Ventilator Project received an Innovation Voucher award from the RI Commerce Corporation to work with pulmonary researchers Clint and Amanda Chichester at the University of Rhode Island to develop and characterize two novel methods of non-invasive ventilation using home-use CPAPs and BiPAPs.
We continue to send evaluation kits to doctors around the world who are looking for options for respiratory support for COVID patients
We supply larger numbers of units to ministries of health, provincial governments and hospitals that request them.
We work with governments and larger health care organizations to source larger numbers of CPAP-based positive-pressure ventilators once we ship out all of our donated units.