CANTON, Ohio — For the past 15 years, Trinae Jones, a respiratory therapist at Canton’s Mercy Medical Center, has worked on breathing problems with expectant mothers, trauma victims, and patients suffering from cancer or pneumonia, but she's never seen anything like COVID-19. Because she knows her job involves close contact with patients, she needed a solution, and the plexiglass intubation box was born.
Jones collaborated with community members to facilitate the production of the plexiglass intubation boxes that are now being installed in all of Mercy’s departments.
Rewind to when she first got the idea. Jones was scrolling through Respiratory Therapist Breakroom, a Facebook group for respiratory therapists and students, and she noticed some therapists were using clear plastic tarps to provide a barrier between the patient and medical staff.
She gave it try, but it didn’t work because it kept moving around and it blocked the view of the patient. Others in the group used a plastic box around the patient’s head, with arm holes for the respirator therapist to intubate COVID-19 patients.
“It had possibilities,” Jones said, “but it was too rigid, and I just knew that the arm holes wouldn’t work for our staff who are all different heights and sizes.”
As a single mother of two boys, Justin, 17, and Tristan, 10, she worried about bringing the virus home to her family.
“I always have that in the back of my head, but especially now. I do appreciate when people tell me to stay safe, but I always aim to be safe. That’s the ultimate goal," she said.
One of her son’s former basketball coaches, Paula "P.J." Vrankovich, contacted her about a prototype of a protective box. She contacted her friend David Chaek, owner of Signs & Graphics in Blairsville, Pa., who created a plexiglass design that was modified to fit the hospital’s needs.
With the prototype in hand, she presented it to the Mercy medical team who gave her the go-ahead, leading to the installation of 10 plexiglass intubation boxes.
“Everyone thought it was a good idea because it’s an extra level of barrier to protect us while we’re working with body fluids. Our box has a window instead of the arm holes, so we have easy access and flexibility while we’re working. You want to intubate as quickly as possible, as safely as possible, so the virus can’t get out into the air,” she said.
The boxes can be used beyond the COVID-19 crisis, for any procedure that could cause a patient’s bodily fluids to be released near the faces of medical staff, Jones said.
As Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said during one of the briefings this week, “Not all heroes wear capes. Some of them wear scrubs. Some of them wear uniforms. And some of them wear what you’re wearing right now.”