Senior at the Jakarta Intercultural School and founder of Kampoeng Sehat
In a matter of just a few months, life as we know it has flipped an entire 180 degrees. Many began the new decade thinking that 2020 would bring about new technological advancements and breakthroughs in science and innovation; however, as we rang in the new year, we were greeted with news of a “mysterious pneumonia” spreading in the city of Wuhan in China. What everyone assumed would fade away or be contained in a few weeks has grown to become known as the COVID-19 outbreak and is now the defining story of the world. This disease has expanded to touch almost every corner of the globe with over 2 million cases and more than 137,000 deaths as of April 16.
COVID-19 is defined by the World Health Organization as an infectious disease whereby most people infected will experience a mild to moderate respiratory illness. A seemingly inescapable household term today, the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharges from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Although there are currently no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, many studies suggest that individuals can protect themselves and others by practicing good hygiene: frequently washing hands, using an alcohol-based sanitizer, and not touching our faces.
Despite having to adapt to our new normal, it is still difficult to accept that this outbreak is placing unprecedented strain on healthcare systems worldwide. Sadly, hearing of overstretched medical staff, overflowing hospitals and overwhelmed intensive-care facilities struggling to treat patients has become more than common. While the world feels like it has been put on pause for many, a group of juniors from Jakarta Intercultural School – Marc Harotono, Farrell Prabowo, Dave Kanawi and Anthony Gunawan – decided to use their time to develop an aerosol box for doctors, nurses and other medical staff helping to fight the disease.
“Stuck at home,” Marc said, “I felt helpless at the sight of doctors and nurses worldwide risking their lives fighting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” After discussing with his team, Marc discovered that medical workers in Indonesia were inconvenienced by a lack of proper medical equipment. “As a developing country, access to medical equipment isn’t always so easy. Doctors and their assistants in many major hospitals lack access to disposable medical suits, and instead decide to wear rain jackets to mitigate the risk of contracting the virus,” explained Marc. Quickly, the group of friends started brainstorming ideas on how to help these workers and tried to identify a tool that could curb the spread of the virus.
Cue aerosol boxes! Research has shown that acrylic, a transparent homopolymer or plastic material with outstanding strength, stiffness and optical clarity, was being used to develop products that helped to counter the proliferation of COVID-19. One major product being developed was aerosol boxes or intubation boxes – a clear plastic cube that covers the patient’s head and has two holes through which the clinician passes their hands to perform medical procedures. The intention of this box is to protect clinicians as an added personal protective equipment during endotracheal intubation as it reduces the chance of virus transmission by aerosolized particles that may propagate during the procedure.
Intubation is the process of putting a breathing pipe into a patient’s trachea to secure their airway. In this procedure, a doctor’s face must be in close proximity to the patient as they must have a clear sight to the patient’s throat area. “With the highly contagious behavior of COVID-19,” explained Marc, “it is extremely dangerous for doctors to be exposed to the patient’s contaminating breath. With the box between them, the patient’s face is shielded, but the doctor is still able to maneuver with both their hands through the box’s holes.” According to a newly released study by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers discovered that “during experiments with a simulated cough, only the inside of the [aerosol] box and the clinician’s gloves and gowned forearms were contaminated.” This was a positive finding because in situations where boxes were not used, “contamination was seen as far as 2 meters from the patient.”
Earlier this month, the team visited RUSD Pasar Minggu regional public hospital in South Jakarta to donate their aerosol boxes. When talking to the doctors on duty, the team surprisingly found out that the most important thing for medical services in Indonesia was not funding and money, but the roll-out of medical supplies and equipment. “Donations are plentiful,” explained physician Margareta Arianni, “it is now about making products [like aerosol boxes] and delivering them as fast as possible to communities that need them most.” Undoubtedly, the current coordination of medical supplies is something that we should prioritize to get people the help they need as fast and efficiently as possible.
In the past couple of months, medical staff and frontline responders have rebuilt their mindsets and lives to accommodate this new part of our future textbooks. The actions of our youth challenge the global community to pick up the role as responsible citizens and do our part in helping to stop the spread of this virus. “Our team sincerely hopes that with the use of our boxes, we are not only physically protecting these doctors from the virus, but also alleviating their mental concerns about working so close to an issue that has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths,” said Marc. “We hope that our efforts inspire others to take the same steps to assist in expediting the eradication of the pandemic and the difficulties faced by the medical workers.”
The future of this pandemic remains uncertain; however, what we must do is clear, now more than ever. Do the right thing by staying at home, exercising social distancing, maintaining hygiene, keeping a safe distance between others and staying empathetic to people most affected by the virus. At a time like this, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by our own anxieties, turn inward into ourselves or grow resentful toward certain communities, but it remains important to practice gratitude and empathy during this time. We all have a responsibility to adopt the measures put forward by local authorities, governments and intergovernmental organizations to “flatten the curve.” The unprecedented circumstances of our new reality depend on our actions today and tomorrow.
Kaitlyn Gosakti is a senior at the Jakarta Intercultural School. She is the founder of Kampoeng Sehat, an organization that focuses on improving health care for less fortunate Jakarta residents.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.