FORT BLISS, Texas – A device developed by U.S. Army doctors, known as the COVID-19 Airway Management Isolation Chamber (CAMIC), was promulgated by U.S. Army Medical Command. William Beaumont Army Medical Center quickly ensured the procurement of these devices to not only treat COVID-19 patients, but also protect healthcare workers from exposure.
The CAMIC is an inexpensive barrier device constructed by draping clear plastic sheeting over a box-like frame made of common PVC piping, then placed over the head of patients to reduce the risk of virus spread as these patients receive treatment. This barrier protects healthcare workers from aerosolized droplets by capturing and removing viral particles emitted from the patient. Holes in the piping device release oxygen flowing through it from one end, which is then sucked out by a vacuum on the other end.
With an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, WBAMC contacted Fort Bliss for support in constructing 40 CAMICs, and a few volunteers from Fort Bliss Range Control stepped forward to do the job. Not only did they volunteer to construct the devices, they also procured all the supplies needed and began working on the construction immediately.
Tim Ahlstrom, Robert Serrano, Kevin Waller, and Raul Martinez, maintenance workers from the Fort Bliss Directorate of Plans Training Mobilization and Security, came in for a few weeks and constructed the CAMICs using instructions for development from MEDCOM.
“When they explained to me what it was going to be used for, I said definitely, we will do it,” said Serrano, maintenance mechanic for DPTMS. “We got to do what we can to help during these times. It is a small part, on our part, but still it’s something that is going to be a big help to the people who get infected.”
Doctors and nurses at WBAMC are thankful the items were constructed in such a quick manner and are at their disposal when treating someone with an infectious disease such as COVID-19.
"The construction of the CAMIC devices by our Team Bliss colleagues is a great example of the phenomenal work by the entire Fort Bliss community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic" said Col. Michael Oshiki, commander of WBAMC. "These devices will provide a superb degree of protection to our staff and our patients, and on behalf of WBAMC, CSM Ray and I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who contributed to getting these devices made."
Lt. Col. Eric Weber, chief medical officer of WBAMC, explains that the CAMIC can be the solution to a world-wide problem.
“The problem is we have a disease that is dangerous and can spread easily when aerosolized,” said Weber. “Where you would normally treat a patient with this disease in an isolation or negative pressure room, this helps. There are not enough negative pressure rooms in hospitals, and this can help treat patients in regular rooms.”
In the emergency room, a patient with the novel-coronavirus may need to be intubated, and anyone within six feet of that patient is at high-risk for contracting the disease themselves.
“The CAMIC is the perfect solution. You can put anyone on a BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure) or any kind of high flow nasal device and completely wall it off, and prevent them from getting intubated and help them get better, and not spread the disease to everybody else,” said Weber.
All 40 CAMICs have been fielded in different parts of the hospital, to be used on patients when needed.
“The CAMIC is a small piece of what we are doing to treat patients with COVID. We have an amazing staff and we are prepared,” said Weber. “I think patients can feel safe and comfortable coming here. We are ready should a large volume of patients come.”
As a doctor himself, Weber does not hesitate to give the local population his advice.
“As the chief medical officer here, my advice to everybody is to wear a mask. There is a tremendous amount of data that wearing a mask is the absolute best thing we can do,” said Weber. “It’s not wear a mask for yourself, it’s for the people around you. You may do great if you are young, but you may have other people who you may interact with that may not do so well. A mask will help slow the spread until we can get a vaccine.”
Samuel Pearson, logistics manager for the range branch, DPTMS, agrees with Weber. Aside from helping in acquiring the materials for the range control team to make them, he feels people should know that they may end up under the CAMIC themselves.