This Family Business Is Producing Helmet Ventilators For Hospitals In Need

Chris Austin runs a mom-and-pop helmet ventilation business called Sea-Long Medical Systems Inc., in the small town of Waxahachie, Texas. With only five employees, they build helmet-style ventilation devices for the community in a small workshop behind Austin's home. But after the coronavirus pandemic hit, they became overwhelmed with thousands of orders from hospitals across the country...

"'Overwhelmed' doesn't scratch the surface," Austin told NBC News.

The Sea-Long helmet device costs less than $200, and looks like a spacesuit helmet, and was originally designed to supply oxygen to patients being treated in hyperbaric chambers. But with many hospitals running low on ventilators on because of COVID-19, researchers say the Sea-Long devices could potentially relieve a lot of those worries for healthcare workers.

So Austin hired five more employees, and his team has been hard at for the past few weeks. But to his surprise, the community showed up to help too!

"We have people showing up that we don't even know that say: 'We're here to help. What can we do?'" Austin said. "They don't ask for anything. They don't expect anything. They just say, 'Whatever you want me to do, we'll do it.'"

He said he even got a recent call from the Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides, offering up his services to help Austin's team produce more devices.

"Chris, I saw what you do, and we want to help," Whitesides said, according to Austin. "Whatever it takes."

U.S. medical centers across the country are now stocking up on the Sea-Long helmets. Austin said he's also received orders from several countries in Europe (including Italy), Canada, and Mexico.

Read the full story on NBC News.

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