Jonas Nyabor writes: Ghanaian Engineers Racing to Build the Country’s First Low-cost Ventilators

The sun was almost setting over the beautiful campus of Academic City College in Accra when I visited the school’s engineering workshop.

All the large equipment in the workshop gave an impressive introduction of the work done in the modest building, but that isn’t as impressive as the four medical ventilator prototypes being built in the workshop to fight the COVID-19 global health crisis.

These prototypes are set up for a test-run and in less than five minutes there is a live demonstration of how these devices work.

Indeed, they are only a few steps shy of being Ghana’s first locally-made low-cost ventilators, all made from low-cost materials.

An Ambu bag (self-inflating bag), battery packs, PVC hose and pipes, a humidifier, a car windshield motor, among other materials, are firmly fastened to wooden and metal frames as the mechanical process of producing air that could be pushed into the lungs of a patient is started.

The squeaky sound produced represents the hope of sustaining critically-ill COVID-19 patients who require such ventilators to stay alive.

The engineering workshop has been home to about a dozen young student-engineers who responded to a Facebook call for volunteers to build ventilators to support Ghana’s fight against COVID-19 in March 2020.

The team included a biomedical salesperson, lab technicians, electrical engineers, an auto-mechanic, a mechanical engineer, a computer engineer, a communications art person, and a mathematician.

“I just put out the message on Facebook asking if there are any folks out there who would be interested during the lockdown to build a ventilator. The next thing I knew, messages were coming from all over the world with people expressing interest in this. The criteria were very simple, all you needed was to be enthusiastic about building new things,” says Prof. Fred McBagonluri, the provost and president of Academic City College, who is playing a lead role in the audacious project.

Prof. Fred McBagonluri, President of Academic City College

“Our major focus was on how to generate that medical air, how to couple that medical air with oxygen, and the mechanisms of delivering that to the patient,” Prof. Fred McBagonluri adds.

‘Coming cheap’

Standard ventilators are sold for between $25,000 and $50,000 per unit and they do not come cheap for a lower-middle-income country such as Ghana.

Besides the financial barrier, the global pandemic and its resultant scramble for such critical medical equipment has put them in short supply and not as easily accessible as before.

Prof. McBagonluri and his team were focused on building their prototypes from common locally-sourced raw materials within Ghana’s reality of resource constraints.

“We went looking for locally available materials; leather, wood, car parts and others. Our intention was to develop something where in case of a crisis situation, we can have immediate access to these things to use,” he says, indicating that the average cost of each unit will be $200.

A ventilator helps to pump oxygen into the body of patients via a tube that is inserted down the windpipe through the mouth.

The latest prototype is in its advanced stage

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease which primarily affects the upper respiratory tract and leaves patients with symptoms including sore throat, dry cough and shortness of breath has made ventilators critical equipment, particularly because a significant number of patients who test positive for the virus have breathing challenges which could result in death.

The prototype can be powered by solar, already-mounted rechargeable battery or the mains

Knowledge of the basic concept behind a standard ventilator is what is being replicated in the four prototypes built by the volunteer engineers over the last three months. With an Ambu bag, oxygen and a humidifier, medical air is produced to save critically-ill patients.

The mechanized process can be powered by either solar power, batteries or electricity from the mains.

Prototype built using leather, car windshield wiper motor among other locally-sourced materials

“What I teach is that, as an engineer, in addition to engineering solutions, you develop stuff within the context of your reality, [using] what you have. If we are called upon as engineers and scientists to produce national solutions, an excuse like ‘we don’t have the materials’ is not an acceptable option,” McBagonluri says.

‘Repurposed to fit’

The prototypes produced so far are of various sizes, including the latest, which is just about 50 centimetres in height and 40 centimetres in width.

According to Prof. McBagonluri, the team intends to produce devices that are mobile and convenient enough to fit in cars.

He says they are aiming at producing the ventilators in large quantities for use in various rural health facilities across the country.

Another prototype being test-operated at the Academic City engineering workshop.

“We can still miniaturize this so that it can be prescribed just as we prescribe fire extinguishers for vehicles. If you chance upon an accident scene, you can pull this thing out and support a life until medical personnel arrive… You can have it in schools, hanging in the hallway, if somebody passes out, you can give them air. Older people can have them at home,” he notes.

Currently, Ghana has less than 200 hospital ventilators, some of which were recently procured amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although data from the Ghana Health Service, an agency under the Health Ministry, shows that very few of the country’s COVID-19 patients have required ventilators, the devices are also critical for saving the lives of patients with other medical conditions.

According to the 2018 Global Burden of Diseases report, respiratory diseases are among the top ten causes of death in Ghana.

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Ghana records a significant number of lung-related diseases including asthma and bronchitis annually, some of which require ventilators.

In many such cases that are reported, especially in rural Ghana, patients are transferred to bigger health facilities, however, not all of them make it to those facilities alive.

“Manufacturing ventilators at lower cost will help to increase patients’ survival rate thus reducing the rate of mortality from respiratory diseases. If the ventilators are going to be at the rural level, it is an even more brilliant idea. We’ll not place so many burdens on referral facilities. Imagine the precious time wasted just to transfer patients from somewhere in the Northern Region to Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi just to have access to ventilators,” says Benson Owusu Atuahene, a nurse at the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit of the Greater Accra Regional Hospital.

‘Awaiting approval’

Fred McBagonluri and his team are yet to get the required approval from the Ghana Standards Authority to mass-produce the potentially life-saving devices.

While officials from the Authority have visited the workshop and expressed satisfaction with the work done so far, Prof. McBagonluri and his team are yet to formally present the prototypes for assessment towards final approval.

He explains that they are yet to incorporate a sensor into the device to ensure that the right amount of air is delivered into a patient’s lungs, but is optimistic that they will receive the required approval as soon as that is fixed.

“I want to take this into enterprise. There are many other medical devices that we can design. For us, there is no limit,” says Prof. McBagonluri.

Author: Jonas Nyabor

How To Surprise🎁 Your Girlfriend👩‍👧On Her Birthday🎂

If you want to make your girlfriend feel special on her birthday, there are a lot of things that you can do. You don't have to spend a lot of money in order to make her feel loved and appreciated.

In fact, some of the best gifts are ones that come from the heart rather than being expensive or elaborate. Try one of these ideas for making your girlfriend feel special on her birthday:

Do something she has wanted to do for a long time.

Surprise your girlfriend on her birthday by doing something she has wanted to do for a long time.

Here are some ideas:

  • Go for a morning jog with her at the park.
  • Volunteer at the animal shelter together, cleaning cages and feeding dogs or cats. If you have kids, you could also bring them along when they're old enough to help out as well! This will be a great bonding experience for everyone involved!
  • Take her on an adventure in nature like hiking up a mountain or exploring caves nearby (if there are any). It's important that you plan ahead so she doesn't get hurt while trying these activities though! Also, make sure they aren't too strenuous since women tend to not have as much energy as men do even if they look good doing it too 😉

Go somewhere she has always wanted to go.

As a rule of thumb, we suggest that you take your girlfriend somewhere she has always wanted to go, but never had the time. This can be anything from a trip to the beach or concert to an amusement park or weekend getaway at a fancy hotel. The point is for you both to enjoy yourselves and have fun together!

If you want to do something really special for your lady love on her next birthday, book tickets for her favourite band taking over the town in two weeks—but don't tell her about it yet! This will keep her on her toes during their concert date and make her feel loved after all this effort from you!

Take her on an unconventional date.

A unique date can be the perfect way to surprise your girlfriend on her birthday. When you take a girl out for the first time, you have to impress her and show her that you are not just any guy.

If she's never been to the place where you're taking her for dinner or drinks, then it'll definitely leave an impression on your woman.

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You don't have to go overboard with this one; just try something new and exciting! Even if what you choose is not extravagant or expensive, she will appreciate that special effort was made in order for her enjoyment - even more so when she realizes that all other guys wouldn't bother doing such things for their girlfriends' birthdays (or at all).

Get her a thoughtful gift.

When you're looking for the perfect birthday gift for your girlfriend, it's important to keep in mind that she will actually use and appreciate what you get her. A thoughtful gift is one that is special to you, but also something she will appreciate. You can take this a step further by making the gift yourself—this shows that you put a lot of thought into it!

A few ideas:

Spend more time with her than you usually do.

As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. This is especially true when it comes to your girlfriend of four years who has been feeling neglected lately and has been complaining that she wants more time with you.

You could take her out for a fancy dinner or buy her a gift, but those are all things that have been done in the past by other people and they might not be as special to her as they once were. Instead, why not spend more time together?

Spend more time with her than you usually do. Make sure that each day you spend some quality one-on-one time with her before bedtime so that she knows how much she means to you—and how much fun she can be!

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important for couples to make time for each other even when life gets busy; this can help keep the spark alive in any relationship!

Do something out of the ordinary for the two of you.

  • Do something out of the ordinary for the two of you.
  • Go for a walk in the park, go for a hike, or get a babysitter and go to a movie.
  • Take your girlfriend to an art gallery or museum and look at all the paintings together.
  • Go to an amusement park that she's never been to before (but don't forget her birthday present).
  • Go see a comedian perform live with your girlfriend so that he can make jokes about how old you both are!

Bring her flowers or a small gift when she least expects it.

Flowers are a classic gift that any woman would love to receive on her birthday. The most important thing to know is what kind of flowers she likes best, so do some research and make sure you know your girl's favourite flower before you go out and buy it.

If you're not sure, ask her friends or family members what they think she would like.

Another thing you can do with flowers is getting creative with the presentation. You could wrap them up in cellophane and place them in a small box filled with tissue paper or put them in a vase and bring that to her house.

This can be done by asking the florist for help if you aren't sure how to arrange them yourself!

Don't forget to include a card or note explaining why they're special: "Happy Birthday" or some form of gratitude might be enough depending on how well you know each other at this point (if not yet).

Give her a private dance party.

If you want to surprise your girlfriend on her birthday, then the best way is to invite her over for a private dance party.

You could play some of her favourite songs, or even make up a song that describes how much she means to you. You can even put on some fancy clothes and dance with her. The most important thing is to make it special because after all, this is the woman who has been by your side since the beginning.

If she doesn't like dancing and prefers to sit back and watch others do their thing, then just make sure that she feels comfortable watching from afar before joining the fun!

Bring back an inside joke or happy memory from your relationship.

One of the best ways to surprise her is by bringing back an inside joke or happy memory from your relationship.

The best way to bring back a happy memory is by showing her something that reminds you both of that memory, like photos or videos. You can also share stories about how funny it was, and how much fun you had together.

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For example, if she always laughs when you say “I love dinosaurs” in a really annoying voice, then saying “I love dinosaurs” in your most annoying voice would be a great way to surprise her on her birthday!

You can make your girlfriend feel special without spending too much money

You can make your girlfriend feel special without spending too much money.

Spending time with her and doing something she has always wanted to do is one of the best ways to surprise your girlfriend on her birthday. You can also surprise her by buying her a thoughtful gift.

To make this gift special, you can add a personal touch that not everyone else will have thought of. For example, if your girlfriend likes chocolate then you could buy her some chocolates but add a personal message inside each box so that only they know what it says.

Conclusion

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show how much you care about your girlfriend. If you want to do something special for her birthday, just think about what she likes and try to make it happen.

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