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People of Helpful: Jamie Waters

Jamie Waters is the project manager for Tetra, a four-way ventilator splitter. In this interview, he explains his background and how he got involved with Helpful.

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The Tetra team working to assemble their prototype.

The transcript of this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

I was able to find a group of individuals who were also interested in building a ventilator splitter, and so Project Tetra was born.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Jamie Waters, and I live in Worcester, England. I am fifteen years old, and I’ll be entering my twelfth year of school this coming fall. In the future, I hope to attend the University of Cambridge to study chemistry and to stay as a research scientist after obtaining my degree. I plan to eventually enter the field of green chemistry, which focuses on the creation of products without waste or hazardous substances.

Outside of school, I enjoy finding ways to use 3D printers and applying my knowledge of them to help others. Lately, I’ve been helping print a lot of face shields for local hospitals with PPE shortages. Currently, I am also learning and experimenting a lot with bioprinting.

What prompted you to join Helpful?

Around the start of the pandemic, I was browsing Twitter and saw a tweet that called for people with technological experiences to help build ventilators. I thought it was an interesting proposal, so I clicked through the thread and saw the Helpful Slack link. From there, I was able to find a group of individuals who were also interested in building a ventilator splitter, and so Project Tetra was born.

Everyone has their own specialty that they focus on within the larger system, and in the end, it all comes together to create this amazing project.

Tell us a bit about what you are working on in Helpful right now.

I’m the project manager and Co-Outreach Lead for Tetra, a four-way ventilator splitter. Tetra is intended to maximize the capacity of a single machine as a last resort solution for under-resourced hospitals. This potentially allows for the treatment of two to four patients at once from a single ventilator.

I was originally inspired by an article that I read online about doctors in Italy splitting the tubes of a ventilator to treat up to four patients at once as a solution to its ventilator shortage. However, a huge limitation of this practice is that it is incredibly risky for the patients, as different patients usually have varied levels of lung compliance, or breathing resistance. This means that the air flow will redirect to the lungs of the patient with stronger lung compliance. This can subsequently damage healthier lungs while also under-ventilating the patient with weaker lung compliance.

To solve this problem, we decided that the best solution was to create an apparatus that could combine air flow splitting with both monitoring and flow control systems. Clinicians and respiratory therapists will then be able to set the peak inspiratory pressure (PIP) through mechanical valves and monitor each patient’s expiratory pressure on monitors attached to the device. As the splitter allows for individual patient adjustment of tidal volume, medical professionals can tailor at least one aspect of the therapy to accommodate the changing nature of our understanding of the disease.

Tetra is made up of a group of amazing individuals. Tell us a bit more about them.

It’s definitely interesting to see how diverse our team is in terms of geographic location, personal experiences, and field of expertise. For instance, Daniel is from the University of Southern California and Valerie the Chief Health and Information Officer for a network of Veteran’s Administration hospitals. Everyone has their own specialty that they focus on within the larger system, and in the end, it all comes together to create this amazing project.

In the coming months, we plan to expand the usage of Tetra to other developing countries that are and may face ventilator shortages as well.

What’s the biggest challenge you and your team have faced so far? The biggest success?

The biggest challenge that we’ve faced is probably trying to work out what the ventilator needs so that it can function properly while being split four ways. Furthermore, it’s been rather difficult trying to figure out what the bare minimum is for a doctor to treat a patient with respiratory issues.

The biggest success that we’ve encountered has probably been establishing a dialogue with health professionals in Nigeria, as they would be the first country to use our prototype. In the coming months, we plan to expand the usage of Tetra to other developing countries that are and may face ventilator shortages as well. We estimate that we’re only a month or two away from deploying our prototype in developing nations, as their health regulations for medical equipment are more relaxed in comparison to developed countries.

We are also working to get Tetra approved for usage in the U.S., as well as in European countries. However, this will likely take upwards of six months, as these nations all require rigorous testing prior to the deployment of any new medical equipment. Adding on to that, medical testing is incredibly expensive, so we’ll need to fundraise a lot before we can achieve this.

It might be easier to sit back and not do anything, but for me it feels much better to know that I am working to help save someone’s life.

What does your typical “work day” look like?

I usually spend five to six hours a day on Helpful related tasks. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is catch up on Slack, as the majority of the Tetra team is located in the US. Throughout the day I generally try to chase a few contacts, look at the designs for Tetra, and jump on virtual meetings with people around the world. Right now, I’m specifically focused on trying to get a UK-based group that has a huge bank of 3D printers to work with us, as access to their printers would greatly help streamline the deployment of Tetra to third world countries that have limited 3D printing capacity.

Presently, during these unprecedented times of adversity, what is giving you hope?

The fact that I can do something that can have a real positive impact on the global scale is what’s giving me hope right now. It might be easier to sit back and not do anything, but for me it feels much better to know that I am working to help save someone’s life.

How can people help support Tetra?

Currently we are in need of:

  • A QA/RA Lead that would provide advice and guidance to make sure that Tetra complies with all best practices with respect to both quality and regulatory requirements, including FDA expectations and for an EUA application. 
  • Individuals with past fundraising experience to help Tetra raise money to support their nonprofit mission of creating and distributing this medical device throughout the world.
  • PR and communications professionals to help generate an overall strategy for spreading the word and gathering donations. Creating this strategy would involve developing promotional content and working to promote the project through various channels, including online media.
  • People to help with 3D print components, particularly in need of those located in southern California, as that is where we do the majority of our testing. We are especially looking for individuals with experience and access to resin printers. 

If you are interested in filling any of those positions, please join our slack channel, #project-tetra, or contact me via email.

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