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Cincinnati doctor's invention helps protect NYC's frontline health care workers from COVID-19

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Posted at 2:49 PM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-08 18:35:23-04

CINCINNATI — Doctors and nurses in New York City, one of the hardest-hit COVID-19 epicenters in the world, are safer thanks to an invention brainstormed by a Christ Hospital anesthesiologist and brought to life by a Cincinnati architect.

Christ Hospital Dr. Brian Kelly came up with the idea for the Care Shield, a clear plastic box with built-in gloves, tube lines and special filters to protect doctors from COVID-19 particles in the air while they intubate patients.

Architect Christie Kratzer built it, and Kelly took the creation with him when he left Cincinnati to volunteer with other health care workers in NYC.

He felt obligated to help, he said, after spending the early weeks of the epidemic watching heartbreaking news pour out of the city.

“I heard stories of what it was like there, and I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “And I just felt so terrible for them. And, truthfully, when I got there, I was still in shock a little bit. It is very overwhelming.”

To give a sense of the problem’s scale: The state of Ohio is home to around 11 million people and has recorded 22,131 cases of COVID-19, including 1,271 deaths, since the start of the pandemic.

About 8 million people live in New York City, but their numbers are many times higher: 176,086 cases and at least 14,389 deaths.

Kelly believed he and the Care Shield could help. He wasn’t sure if anyone in the city would.

“When I was walking through the hospital with it, I was a little bit skittish, you know,” he said. “I’m new here. People are going to think I’m absolutely bonkers.”

But another doctor asked to use it as soon as Kelly arrived.

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Dr. Brian Kelly, whose idea led to the creation of the Care Shield, tests it from a patient's perspective.

Kratzer, the architect, was excited to hear it.

“It is nice to know that you’re helping people here at the hospital, and Brian was able to help the people in New York with it, as well,” she said.

Kelly had returned to Cincinnati by the start of May. When he spoke to WCPO, he was quarantined in his home and awaiting the results of the mandatory COVID-19 test that would determine whether he could return to work at Christ Hospital.

During the interview, Kelly returned often to the memories of empty New York streets and critically ill patients who could only see their families through video chatting. Emergency room nurses would help the patients sit up, he said, and comb their hair so they were ready to see their families.

Some patients were too weak to even speak when they saw their loved ones’ faces.

“Different people get on the phone, read letters,” Kelly said. “I know they (the patients) are listening because their heart rate goes up. One of the gentlemen, he had tears coming down his eyes and he was squeezing my hand.”

Kelly’s COVID-19 test came back negative after the interview. He will return to Cincinnati’s front lines soon.