“They’d recruit nurses and medical students to stand there and squeeze a bag,” says S. Mark Poler, a Geisinger Health system anesthesiologist on the NovaVent team. “Sometimes they were just so exhausted that they would fall asleep and stop ventilating. It was obviously a catastrophe, so that was the motivation for creating mechanical ventilators.”
The first ones were simple machines, much like the basic emergency-use ventilators created during the Covid crisis. But those came with hazards such as damaging the lungs by forcing in too much air. More sophisticated machines would deliver better control. These engineering marvels—the monitors, the different modes of ventilation, the slick touchscreen controls designed to minimize the risk of injury or error—improved patient treatment but also drove costs sky-high.
The emergency ventilators