Local doctor develops more effective mask to protect frontline medical workers


UNIVERSITY CITY, MO – Doctor Jennifer DeLaney has been a trusted internal medicine specialist in St. Louis for 20 years. In the quietness of her own neighborhood, she may be on the brink of what could be the biggest medical development of her career.

She and her partners at Washington University and Hunter Engineering are remodeling a PPE that was used by doctors during the Ebola and SARS epidemics. It is called a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR).

Some of the primary parts of this design come from a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, a commonly used device by people with sleep apnea.

Dr. DeLany says that 30 percent of healthcare workers who wear N-95 masks get infected with COVID-19. She and her devoted team are currently reaching out to the community to collect donated CPAP machines so they can continue their mission of keeping frontline doctors and nurses safe.

“As a clinician on the front lines – every one of my friends wants one. Every nurse I talk to wants one. Everyone wants one because they know it’s more protective and they’ll be safer,” said Dr. DeLany.

The PAPR unit consists of a battery pack, oxygen blower, air purifier, air tube, and a scuba mask that completely covers the face.

She has been investing her own money into the creation of these masks along with donations from her patients and the community. If Dr. DeLaney and her team can gather the materials they need and get past FDA regulations and restrictions, this device could potentially save thousands of lives.

“We’re all in this together. We’re all working as a community to make St. Louis have a better outcome than some of our peers in the country,” said DeLaney.  “I’m doing it for one purpose only and that is to save people’s lives, and I know I can do it with this device. I know I can do it, and the healthcare works desperately need it. They do.”

You can see how to donate a CPAP machine or make a financial donation to help develop more PAPR masks on Hunter Engineer’s website.

Donate a CPAP machine or make a donation here.

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