Coronavirus: Why we repaired abandoned JUTH ventilators for free – Williams Gyang, Nura Jibrin

Pictures of two young men, Mr Williams Gyang and Mr Nura Jibrin, who repaired abandoned ventilators at Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Plateau State, for use of patients free of charge, have gone viral on social media.

It was their own way contributing to ongoing efforts to stop the spread of the deadly COVID-19. Gyang tells what inspired the noble gesture

What do you do for a living?

I am a civil servant working with the state-owned Plateau Radio Television Corporation. I work in the Engineering Department.

What is your educational background?

I am a student at the Plateau State Polytechnic studying Electrical Electronics.

Whose idea was it to fix ventilators at Jos University Teaching Hospital?

Nobody gave me the idea. It was just because of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed many people. And I heard the United States President, Donald Trump, and many other people talking about ventilators and their usefulness in treating patients of the disease. I did not know about the machine before now so I decided to carry out research on it. Through online research and other inquiries, I was able to know some things about the machine, its components and how they work. That was the initial idea I had and I decided to find out if I could have one for physical examination.

So I contacted a doctor friend at JUTH, Dr Meshak Daniel, and asked if he could link me with the management of the hospital so that I could have a look at the equipment. He did. During my meeting with the management, they told me they had some ventilators that were not functional and I requested to see them. That is how the whole thing started and I was able to fix them eventually.

How many ventilators did you fix for the hospital?

Two.

How many does the hospital have that are working? 

I don’t really know but the truth is that they need ventilators in this hospital to save the lives of patients. And I want to use this opportunity to appreciate the management of JUTH for the opportunity given to me to be part of their life-saving mission.

How did you learn to fix ventilators?

I had never fixed ventilators before. But I had been involved in repairing other electrical equipment.

How did you know you would be able to fix ventilators since you hadn’t fixed one before?

I think my background at a technical school helped me a lot. Moreover, I had been involved in fixing electrical equipment. That also gave me confidence because when I checked the faulty ventilators, I was able to google the problem and with my experience in carrying out electrical repairs; I knew I could do something about it. At a point, I contacted the company that produced the machine and asked them some questions about the machine. They replied me through their representative in Nigeria, who called me to ask if I was a staff member of JUTH. I said no but that I was working on one of the machines in the hospital. Before he called, I had actually fixed one of the faulty machines and when I told him that, he was surprised.

He told me he was the one who used to service the machines but that the outbreak of coronavirus affected that.

How much did it cost to fix the ventilators?

I did not spend any money to fix them. I just used my experience and fixed them.

How does the attention you are getting make you feel?

Honestly, I feel very happy about it. And I’m sure it will make me do more. I will actually do more and do more research because I believe that other Nigerians and I have something to offer to the rest of the work instead of the other way round.

Are you planning to do something similar in other places?

Why not if I have the opportunity? This is something that involves saving lives.  So, I’m ready to do it again and again whenever the opportunity presents itself.

What are your future plans?

I am an engineer already. Now that I can repair a faulty ventilator, what is left for me to do is to go beyond that and know how to make one. I believe it is not impossible.

I understand you and your colleague worked together to carry out the repairs on the ventilator. How did you meet?

We have been doing some work on electronics for 17 years. We finished from the same technical school. We became friends and always share ideas and compare notes on the skills we have acquired. So, when the opportunity to repair the ventilators came, I called him and his contributions have been helpful in fixing the machines. One interesting thing about our relationship is that he is a Hausa man from Maiduguri and a Muslim. But I’m a Berom man from Plateau State and a Christian. And I think people can learn something from us; they can learn to work together and live in peace because we need each other as we live our lives.

Will you consider setting up an engineering firm together?

That will be great. I don’t mind if we could get the financial resources for the project.

I want to repair more ventilators to help coronavirus patients –JIbrin, who joined friend to fix jos hospital Equipment

Nura Jibrin worked with Williams Gyang to repair two ventilators at Jos University Teaching Hospital free of charge for the use of COVID-19 patients. He tells JAMES ABRAHAM how he got involved in the humanitarian project

What do you do for a living?

I live in Mista Ali community here in Jos but I am from Borno State. I am 40 years old. I’m an artisan. I fix solar power gadgets and mobile phones. Generally, I work on anything concerning electronics.

How long have you been doing this?

I have been doing such things for 21 years, even while I was still in technical college.

What is the name of the college?

I finished from Government Technical College, Bukuru in the Jos South Local Government Area of Plateau State.

Which other schools did you attend after you finished from the college?

I did not go further after my secondary education.

Why?

I would have loved to but I did not have the opportunity to do so.

How did you get involved in this project to repair ventilators for JUTH?

It was my friend that called me. I will call him a brother because we have been together and have been working together for long. After the outbreak of coronavirus, I was concerned like other Nigerians. I was thinking of what I could do to help when my friend called me to come over to JUTH. That was it.

Had you fixed a ventilator before?

No. But one thing about electrical equipment is that once you understand the workings, you can work on any machine to get what you want. Research can also assist in fixing a particular problem.

How do you feel about the success you recorded in fixing the ventilators and the attention it has brought you?

I feel very happy and I thank God for everything.

What future plans do you have?

I want this coronavirus out of the country. If there are more ventilators or other things I can fix to assist the government in curtailing the spread of the disease, I will be ready to do it. That is my future plan.

why I gave Gyang, Jibrin approval to repair our ventilators

–Prof Banwat, Jos University Teaching Hospital CMD

Chief Medical Director of Jos University Teaching Hospital, Plateau State, Prof Edmund Banwat, tells JAMES ABRAHAM about COVID-19 and how useful the ventilators fixed free of charge by Williams Gyang and Nura Jubrin will be in treating patients

How useful are ventilators in the treatment of coronavirus?

Ventilators are needed in the management of COVID-19, a challenge being faced across the globe. The virus comes with fever, cough and shortness of breath, among other symptoms. The shortness of breath is what kills an infected individual. This is where the use of ventilators comes in because they assist in respiration in such cases.

That is why ventilators are critical in the management of coronavirus patients and any hospital that does not have a ventilator will not be able to effectively manage a severe case of coronavirus infection because you need to manage the respiratory system of a patient for them to survive. So, ventilators are critical in hospitals managing COVID-19 patients or any isolation centre for that matter.

Some faulty ventilators in your hospital were reportedly fixed by two persons free of charge and in a very unusual way that has attracted attention to JUTH. Can you confirm if the ventilators are working after the repairs?

It started when a young man, who identified himself as Williams Gyang, walked into my office sometime last week and told me he wanted to fabricate a ventilator. That was fascinating. So, I had to ask him a few questions: who he is, what are his qualifications, what he knows about ventilators and so on. He told me he hadn’t seen one before but that he wanted to see one to know if he could fabricate it. So, I got interested in that and we took him to where he would take a look at the ventilators.

He was shown two of them which were not functional. I’m telling you, he was able to make them functional. We are trying them to see how long they will last but all the parameters we need to show that they are functional are there, as I speak now. He has not fabricated one yet but at least, he now knows what a ventilator is. And it is my belief that if encouraged, probably, he can fabricate one. So, there is the need to encourage such ingenuity in our young men and women in Nigeria to see if it is possible that in future, we can make ventilators here in the country.

I will underscore the importance of this by saying that one of the companies that produce ventilators in the world is in the United States of America. With the outbreak of the coronavirus, this company is producing ventilators at four times their usual capacity but they are not being exported. They are meant only for American citizens because their people need them critically. As you are aware, there are coronavirus cases in all the 50 American states with deaths recorded. So because of the situation, we that are consumers won’t have ventilators. We placed any order for ventilators from the US but have not received the consignment because the company is only producing to service the need of their own people.

In the UK too, they are placing orders to companies producing ventilators, to mop up the equipment to the UK for their own citizens. Recently, we spoke with a company in China to see if we could access ventilators and we were told that the Pakistani government had placed orders before us. So, they are not able to export ventilators to any country. What is happening is a wake-up call for us as a country. If young people like Williams Gyang and his friend, Jibrin, could have such a tall ambition, I think they should be encouraged. That way, we can produce this equipment locally and for the Nigerian people.

Looking at how important ventilators are, why were the faulty ones not repaired before now?

We have been repairing them. One of the ones we have was just delivered last week by a company from their Abuja office.

Did you have any doubts about the ability of the young man and his friend to fix the faulty ventilators?

Of course, yes. And that is why I had to interview him because I could not afford to give out  such sensitive equipment to just anybody to try their hands on. But I am happy I did.

How many ventilators does the hospital have now?

Before now, we had four. And if you add the two that have just been repaired, then we have six functional ventilators now in JUTH.

How many ventilators will be considered to be adequate for a hospital like JUTH?

Let me put this way, there is always the need for more ventilators. With the outbreak of COVID-19, if we have a number of cases, each patient has to be put on a ventilator. That will tell you the extent to which we need ventilators in each of the federal tertiary hospitals. I will also tell you that the Federal Ministry of Health is compiling the number of ventilators in federal tertiary hospitals across the country to see if they can get ventilators across to us for use, particularly because of the pandemic.

JUTH was chosen by government as one of the isolation centres for coronavirus treatment, what is the situation so far?

The isolation centre here in JUTH is one of the best in the country. This has been attested to by the Director General of Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu. He visited us here and said it was of international standard. But as we are saying, the equipment there is still not what it should be with the issue of ventilators as we mentioned earlier. But the centre is one of the best.

How effective is the use of hand sanitizers in curtailing the spread of coronavirus?

The first line is hand washing with running water and soap and that can be found in every village in Nigeria. We are encouraging people to wash their hands with running water and soap because it is better than using sanitiser, which is the second line. Sanitisers are mostly for convenience when water and soap are not available because you may not be able to carry them along as you move about.

It is important to note that any hand sanitiser must contain 70 per cent alcohol, and not beer. The 70 per cent alcohol is the WHO standard, in addition to other contents like glycerin and distilled water. At JUTH, we produce hand sanitisers strictly according to WHO guidelines. If your hand sanitizer does not contain at least 70 per cent alcohol, it will not work. And the mechanism of action of the hand-washing with soap or the alcohol in hand sanitiser is that it attacks the wall of the coronavirus and breaks the wall so that the virus dies. So, soap is very effective and that is why in the villages, we will encourage them to wash their hands regularly with running water and soap and de-emphasize the use of sanitiser so that nobody will complain of not having money to buy hand sanitizers when the use of soap and running water can achieve the same result. – Culled from Punch.

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