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Community comes together to support local healthcare providers

As the nation continues its battle against the novel coronavirus, small communities are coming together to support local healthcare providers.

When South Boston urologist and Chief of Surgery Dr. Christi Hughart learned of aerosol boxes being used to protect healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients, she knew she had to make these available in Halifax County.

The aerosol box was designed by Taiwanese doctor Dr. Hsien Yung Lai as a low-cost method of protecting medical staff during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Made of plexiglass, the aerosol box covers the patient’s head and helps to contain the aerosolized body fluids that providers are exposed to when intubating a patient.

Intubation is a process where tubes are placed down a patient’s throat to help them breath, and is critical for any patient in respiratory distress. The aerosol box has two holes on one side that allows the physician to insert his or her hands to perform the intubation procedure. Lai placed his design and photos of the aerosol box online and available free of charge (https://sites.google.com/view/aerosolbox).

Recognizing that the aerosol boxes could be used by local emergency medical service (EMS), emergency rooms, or intensive care units, Hughart set up a Facebook donation campaign to raise money to make the boxes locally.

“Fastenal donated materials, and there were many other offers of donations even after we’d raised enough money. The response was great,” Hughart said.

When Christopher Walker, Research and Development (R and D) Technician for the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC), heard about the project he knew this was the perfect project for the SVHEC’s Research and Development Center.

“I knew this would be a great thing for the R and D Center to be involved with, and that it would be great for us to use our machines and talents to help the community,” Walker said.

The SVHEC’s R and D Center specializes in product design and development, and has the ability to prototype and manufacture products. After speaking with Hughart, and using Lian’s photos as a reference, the R and D staff, Jerry Elliott, Lily Toombs and Walker quickly set about producing the aerosol boxes.

R and D Center staff created a computer aided design (CAD) file, wrote the program to produce the aerosol box’s components on R and D’s waterjet machining center and assembled the components. After creating an initial prototype that was approved by Hughart, SVHEC’s R and D Center staff set about producing 11 aerosol boxes.

“I just felt in my heart it was a good thing for everyone involved. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep our doctors and nurses on the front line of this terrible virus a little safer,” Walker said.

As the aerosol boxes are produced, Hughart is donating them to local groups who have expressed an interest.

“I just want to thank all those who volunteered their time and money to help our local hospital heroes,” said Hughart. “To quote Mother Theresa, ‘It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.’”