Gef’s Good News: Diving masks to the rescue

There’s a lot to be worried about right now, as the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the globe.

But one thing we’ve really been loving is how kind the Manx population has been to each other to get us through.

Some of those people have given up their diving equipment in a bid to help coronavirus patients who could struggle to breathe.

Michelle Haywood, from Discover Diving in Port St Mary, got a call from Noble’s Hospital last week asking if she had full-face diving masks, as they had been used in Italy to aid breathing.

The idea is that oxygen can be fed into the mask, increasing the amount the patient receives. It also aims to protect the area around the patient from being contaminated by the virus. It would be for cases who are not severe enough for ventilator use.

The CPAP machines that usually help breathing risk contaminating the area around the patient.

Michelle doesn’t carry this type of diving mask, but put a post on social media and got a phenomenal response – in five hours, she’d had 90 offers.

“My phone went absolutely crazy,” she said. She spent seven hours driving around the island to collect the masks (contact free, of course).

A specific type of the mask was used in Italy, and 3D printers were used to make the adaptors but they did not quite fit the Manx medical equipment. The island’s engineering firms adjusted the design to make it work.

Dr Sivakumar Balasubramanian, who has been helping with the project, said it seems to “function satisfactorily” and tests are still ongoing.

Michelle, who knows some of those working in the hospital, was delighted to see the positive results, and said there were “high fives at a distance” due to social distancing. She’s already planning to celebrate with them when this is all over.

Engineers have also worked on a second type of adaptor in the hope that more types of the masks can be put to use.

Some of the donations came from people who had ordered them especially, and one woman had bought them for her now-cancelled honeymoon trip.

She added: “People are fantastic.” Michelle, we couldn’t agree more.

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