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Nevada City family helps convert sleep apnea machines into ventilators

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

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Converting sleep apnea machines into ventilators

Website: http://www.ventilatorsos.com

Ventilators are helping to keep many people alive from coronavirus complications, but they are in short supply at hospitals nationwide.

One Nevada City resident — in partnership with University of California researchers — is trying to change that.

Bryan Martel, an engineer and managing director at the Environmental Capital Group, is working with his son, a sophomore at Cal Poly, and his wife, who works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to transform sleep apnea machines into makeshift ventilators.

Martel, a Berkeley alumnus, has been collaborating with university engineers to convert continuous positive airway (CPAP) and bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines to support COVID-19 patients experiencing breathing problems.

“This could save many people’s lives and it’s cool that my dad’s doing it.”— Calan Martel

Martel, who himself has sleep apnea and recently came up with the idea, said the process for converting sleep apnea machines is quite easy, merely requiring people to repurpose “a few LEGO pieces” like in-line filters. The newly constructed machines are meant to be used at the discretion of physicians.

“It’s a means to provide oxygenated air to your lungs,” said Martel, adding that “This is a backup tool for doctors.”

People working on the ventilator project, most of whom reside in the Bay Area, have been conducting research online and communicating with each other via Zoom.

Martel said he’s working 12- to 14-hour days every day, trying to acquire the sleep apnea machines, convert them and distribute them to hospitals that are in need.

“We are trying to work with other big, logistical players in the world market to get this to scale,” he said.

Already, thousands of machines have been donated to the website, Ventilator SOS, according to Martel.

Calan Martel, Bryan’s son, has been helping his father make flow charts to organize the supply chain logistics of acquiring and distributing sleep apnea machine parts.

“I haven’t really done that much,” said Calan Martel. “But it is cool, and it’s a big deal. This could save many people’s lives and it’s cool that my dad’s doing it.”

Bryan Martel said he will continue this work for as long as it’s needed. All he wants now is more of the relevant technology.

“It’s really simple, the parts,” he said. “We just have to get people to donate.”

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey, email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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