Lowell anesthesiologist leads effort to produce intubation boxes to help protect health care workers

The boxes are even made in New England and will soon be produced in Massachusetts.

The boxes help protect health care workers from sick patients when inserting tubes into airways

LOWELL — She’s an anesthesiologist, a busy mom for four, and now, an entrepreneur.

Julie Tammaro is one of the health care workers at Lowell General Hospital who must intubate patients with COVID-19 who need ventilators, which involves inserting a tube through the patient’s mouth and airway.

“There is a gap here in what we’re wearing and what we should be wearing,” Tammaro said.

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“When we’re doing these airway procedures and they’re generating a lot of coughing and exposure of the virus to health care workers,” she said. “Your entire gown and mask can get covered in particles that have the virus on them so even if your equipment is doing its job, when you go to take this equipment off, you’re at high risk again of getting exposed.”

After seeing a photo of an intubation box, used to protect doctors and nurses from sick and coughing patients, in a Taiwan magazine, she called her brother-in-law, Ian Brady, an entrepreneur in Lynnfield.

“If we can give her one added layer of protection to keep her safe then this is what it’s all about,” he said.

The two contacted manufacturers and had a prototype within 24 hours. The initial plan was to make just enough for Lowell General Hospital and see if anyone else was interested, but they quickly received a flood of inquiries up and down the East Coast.

The polycarbonate boxes are four-sided, with openings for tubes and they’re reusable after being wiped down and disinfected. They’re designed for the high-risk situations in emergency rooms, ICUs and even labor and delivery rooms.

“We’re not just putting ourselves at risk, we are very aware that we are putting our families into this and so we owe it to them,” she said.

The intubation boxes, which cost about $200 to make and ship, are currently being produced in Maine and will soon be manufactured in Massachusetts. A GoFundMe is helping support their effort.

Tamaro hopes her idea will inspire her colleagues to come up with other ways to protect themselves and their families.

“You have to take your own health a little bit into your own hands right now," she said. "Hospitals are overwhelmed.”

So far, about 100 boxes have been produced and they have received requests for hundreds more from hospitals from Maine to Florida. Tammaro said they’re making about 30 a day and they’ll continue building them as long as they have requests.

For more information visit intubationbox.org and if you’d like to donate, visit gofundme.com/f/intubation-box.

The boxes help protect health care workers from sick patients when inserting tubes into airways

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