‘Everybody can make it’: UVM doctor builds a ‘Bridge’ for those in desperate need of a ventilator


The U.S. is currently facing a shortage of ventilators. Here’s how they work and why they are so important in fighting COVID-19. USA TODAY

Dr. Borzoo Farhang, an anesthesiologist at the University of Vermont Medical Center since 2015, was appalled by what he was hearing from his colleagues in New York City when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Farhang had already been thinking about what we would do in Vermont if we ran out of ventilators. As an anesthesiologist, his first thought was to have a person stand by the patient and ventilate her by hand with a so-called Ambu bag, the kind you see on TV shows about emergency rooms.

Based on his conversations with his New York counterparts, he soon realized that wouldn’t work.

“They run from room to room, ventilating people,” Farhang said. “They can’t stand in one place.”

Farhang went home that night and began working on what he has since named the Bridge ventilator, an inexpensive, essentially home-built device that can get patients through until a more sophisticated option is available. Soon he had a couple of collaborators he met online.

“It’s open source, cheap and modular,” Farhang said. “Only two parts have to be 3D printed. If you don’t have a 3D printer you can order the parts from a 3D printer shop, or the parts can be made with wood.”

How cheap? Farhang estimates $100 to $150, including the tools to make it and the 3D printing.

“Everybody can make it,” he said. “You can have hundreds overnight.”

Farhang stresses that the Bridge is not a “real” ventilator, but it does deliver a standardized amount of oxygen automatically, without someone standing there.

“My thought is I want this to keep somebody alive, not make decisions about who should live and who should die,” he said. “Nobody should make that decision.”

Farhang applied for emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration for the Bridge, but has not yet heard back.

Contact Dan D’Ambrosio at 660-1841 or ddambrosio@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanDambrosioVT. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a digital subscription.

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