The Blease Ventilator and The Iron Lung

Blease Ventilator

Inventions and Innovations In my lifetime kept me learning every day from 1965 to 2021 and gave me unforgettable memories. Two of those were the The Blease Ventilator and The Iron Lung

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With the current Pandemic everyone is familiar with the Ventilators being used to help patients breathe. We have come a long way in our progress in Ventilator’s technology today.

Going down memory lane, here is my 1st unforgettable experience:

October 1965 starting my Anesthesia Residency in UK I learnt to use the Blease Ventilator under the supervision and teaching of my Consultant Dr. Bret, a wonderful teacher.

To this day I remember distinctly every detail.

It was white and the size of a present-day washing machine on wheels. It was an intermittent positive pressure ventilator invented by John Blease, an engineer in 1945. It was the 1st positive pressure ventilator invented in England and used in Liverpool during the war. Also, the1st for patient use in England.

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It was a state of the art at that time.

My memorable patient

A young healthy staff nurse was anesthetized for an elective procedure under General Anesthesia. She received a short acting muscle relaxant succinylcholine to facilitate intubation. To our surprise, she did not resume spontaneous breathing.

Dr. Bret and I had to manage her on the Blease Ventilator.

There was no ICU. We were the ICU. Our patient was stable under our planned ICU management. While on the Blease, we hand ventilated her with a few breaths every hour. There were no oximeters and no co2 capnometers. Only our vigilance. We relied on Oxygen tanks with no central pipelines.

Maybe 10 hours later she gradually resumed breathing on her own. This was a glimmer of hope awaiting the morning sunlight after a stormy night.

She was successfully extubated. She smiled as if she was waking up from a good night sleep. She had no idea what had transpired.

Thanks to the Mega Giant Blease.

This was an intense learning experience early on in my training that has engraved in my memory from 1965-2021.

She had a genetic variant for prolong reaction to succinylcholine. A benign but scary if not diagnosed. Usually, patients lead a normal life.

Going forward, a thought on The Iron Lung.

I came to the US in 1967 and started my Anesthesia training at New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston.

I learned from the staff that one of my Senior Anesthesiologist in his fifties was a miracle survivor of Polio after being ventilated in the Iron lung for many months.

Thanks to the invention by an American Engineer Philip Drinker in 1920. In 1959 there were approximately over 1,000 people using the Iron Lung.

Today there are state of the art Ventilators for every need. Portable, pressure or volume controlled, for use in the OR, ICU, Home use and for neonates and more. GM and Ford have been manufacturing Ventilators. Also, price wise affordable for home use. I have used the Drager in the OR enjoyed it and stays in my memory Often I think of the Blease and my patient and my wonderful Consultant Dr. Bret with gratitude.



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