NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – An unlikely resource in what could be a long battle against COVID-19 is coming from a small, family-owned business right here in North Texas.
“It’s incredible,” says Christopher Austin, owner of Sea-Long Medical Systems. “We’re getting calls on top of calls 24 hours a day.”
With hospitals in hard hit areas under siege, the availability of life saving ventilators has escalated to national crisis. Now, Austin and his staff are ramping up production of a device that doctors say can save lives: they’re calling it the ‘COVID-19 Helmet’.
“What we’re trying to do is get the technicians and doctors and everybody else involved to have a one stop shop. So what they need is just this kit,” says Austin, showing off the astronaut gear looking device.
Once used to supply oxygen to patients receiving treatment in hyperbaric chambers, a doctor discovered that the devices could also be used to help deliver oxygen to patients recovering from other diseases.
It is a task that has become life saving in the face of COVID-19. The device is both cost efficient at a couple of hundred dollars, and easy to operate.
“Anybody from a parking lot attendant to a janitor can put this on,” says Austin.
Right now, he says his biggest challenge is the funding needed to fully ramp up production to meet the massive increase in demand.
“People in larger places that deal with emergency preparedness said, ‘Chris you need to be at 50,000 a week, not 1,000 a week’ and that’s what we got on the radar: got everything in place to get us there. We just need to make it happen.”
Late this afternoon, Austin says the CEO of Virgin Atlantic phoned to pledge support and promised to buy more of the machines needed to help them ramp up production.
Austin says suppliers, benefactors, suppliers and even strangers are stepping up to help his small staff keep cranking out the COVID-19 Helmets, with a haunting thought keeping them all awake and working hard.
“I know it sounds corny,” admits Austin, “but… what if it’s your son, daughter, mother, grandfather who’s sitting on that table gasping for air and somebody has to tell ’em ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have enough of whatever it is to keep you ‘ alive. That’s not gonna happen… we can’t let that happen.”