Nigerian doctor invents cheap, portable ventilator
A young Nigerian doctor, Dayo Olakulehin, has invented a cheap, portable, easily deployable, easy to use and rechargeable battery-powered solution to one of the major causes of death in developing nations-respiratory problems.
The D-Box is an innovative ventilator designed to automate Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) bags and deliver controlled breaths to patients with respiratory problems.
A medical ventilator or simply ventilator is a machine designed to mechanically move breathable air into and out of the lungs, to provide the mechanism of breathing for a patient who is physically unable to breathe, or breathing insufficiently.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), heart disease, stroke, lower respiratory infections and chronic obstructive lung disease have remained top major killers during the past decade.
Conventional ventilators averagely cost $30,000 (about N9 million); low-cost alternatives still in development are to be sold for $3,000 (about N900, 000) while the D-Box’s introductory price is $300 (about N90, 000).
CPR is a lifesaving technique useful in many emergencies, including heart attack or near drowning, in which someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped.
Olakulehin, who trained at the College of Medicine University of Lagos (CMUL)/Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), at a public presentation of the discovery and product launch, in Lagos, said the D-Box requires little or no expertise to use and is powered by a rechargeable battery that facilitates usage in remote rural communities and urban centers with limited facilities.
He said the D-Box has been deployed to help millions requiring intensive care to breathe.
D-Box is a joint venture product of the Canadian product development firm Inertia Engineering + Design, headed up by Ray Minato and LigandCorp, owned by Dr. Dayo Olakulehin.
The product was also publicly endorsed at the Lagos launch by officials from CMUL/LUTH; National Orthopaedic Hospital Igbobi, Lagos; Lagoon Hospital; and Inertia Engineering + Design, Canada.
The joint venture is aiming to get the product into the hands of hospitals and medical centres in the next 16 months.
Olakulehin said the concept of critical care in a high dependency unit (HDU) or an intensive care unit (ICU) historically has significantly helped to improve patient outcomes.
He said close monitoring, more specialized care, and access to ventilators make the ICU a vital department of any hospital setting.
Olakulehin, who is also the Chief Executive Officer(CEO )and founder of LigandCorp, said, unfortunately, many patients in respiratory failure requiring ventilator support in an ICU are not able to receive intensive care and ventilator support due to high cost and limited intensive care beds.
Olakulehin who has also worked with Lagoon Hospital, Lagos, said the current alternative is for health workers to indefinitely ventilate these patients using CPR bag. In some instances, patients are ventilated for days; health workers taking turns to keep these patients alive by manually compressing a CPR bag.
“Generally, patients are ventilated manually via ‘pumping by hand’ – a process that is grossly inefficient because of the susceptibility to human error, costly in terms of manpower required to operate,” he said.
Olakulehin, who is also the founder of Africa’s first of its kind Medical Innovation Hub, PAMIH, said a well-established lack of paediatric ventilators and specialized pediatric critical care physicians and nurses, make children and neonates significantly more affected by this problem.
This situation, he said, is true for majority of health facilities in developing countries, military camps, conflict regions and other resource-limited settings.
On his motivation, he said: “In 2012, while I was at the Olikoye Ransome Kuti Children emergency ward, LUTH, I had manually ventilated a five year old boy for four hours and at about 2am, I fell asleep, only to be awakened by the boy’s father.