FedEx Aircraft Mechanic Puts Engineering Skills to Work Building Intubation Boxes for Use With COVID-19 Patients

Apr 27, 2020 12:45 PM ET
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“I can build one of those things myself.”

That’s what went through Shawn Yarbro’s head when his wife, a nurse, told him about the need at hospitals for something called an intubation box. It’s a shield of sorts, for protecting healthcare workers from infection while performing the process of intubating a patient.

A high percentage of COVID-19 patients require this procedure in order to clear their airway so they can breathe. And it’s a pretty risky process, exposing hospital staff to a risk of infection.

Shawn, a FedEx aircraft mechanic for 31 years, put his engineering skills to work, building an intubation box based on a video provided by Dr. Imad Omer, an infectious disease doctor in Memphis, Tennessee.

Joined by his son Logan (also an aircraft mechanic who just started with FedEx in the last month) he designed a process and built the first two intubation boxes in a single afternoon.

Shawn describes the process, “I’d been sent plans that involved using a million-dollar piece of equipment, which I don’t quite have in my home shop. So, we went down to Home Depot, bought some Lexan—similar to plexiglass—and got to work.”

After delivery to Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, the box was used twice in the very first night.

Reports of the intubation boxes’ effectiveness spread quickly. Shawn’s daughter is a nurse at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, so she took a box there. Yarbro has since been asked to make 20 more intubation boxes for other hospitals, including some for locations in neighboring Mississippi.

True to their FedEx spirit of continuous improvement, Shawn and Logan started looking for enhancements to their process. They quickly built intubation box 2.0 that has fewer pieces and is easier to keep clean, and version 3.0 is in the works.

“This is a tough time for our country. Everybody needs to band together and do what we can to help,” Shawn said.

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