Czech volunteers develop functioning lung ventilator in days

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A worker checks a lung ventilator "Corovent" manufactured in Trebic, Czech Republic, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. A group of volunteers in the Czech Republic was working round the clock to prevent critical shortage of ventilators for COVID-19 patients. A team of 30 developed a fully functional ventilator _ named Corovent _ in just days. They secured the necessary finances through crowdfunding, approached a leading expert in the field with a request for help and gave him all possible support. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

PRAGUE – Tomas Kapler knew nothing about ventilators — he’s an online business consultant, not an engineer or a medical technician. But when he saw that shortages of the vital machines had imperiled critically ill COVID-19 patients in northern Italy, he was moved to action.

“It was a disturbing feeling for me that because of a lack of equipment the doctors had to decide whether a person gets a chance to live,” Kapler said. “That seemed so horrific to me that it was an impulse to do something.”

And so he did. “I just said to myself: ‘Can we simply make the ventilators?’” he said.

Working around the clock, he brought together a team of 30 Czechs to develop a fully functional ventilator — Corovent. And they did it in a matter of days.

Kapler is a member of an informal group of volunteers formed by IT companies and experts who offered to help the state fight the pandemic. The virus struck here slightly later than in western Europe but the number of infected was rising and time was running out.

“It seemed that on the turn of March and April, we might be in the same situation as Italy,” Kapler said.

Ventilators had become a precious commodity. Their price was skyrocketing and so was demand that the traditional makers were unable to immediately meet.

Components for the ventilators were also in critically short supply. So Kapler said he set out to “make a ventilator from the parts that are used in common machines.”