The bewilderment was once again painted on her face. She had arrived early at the intensive care unit of the Mártires de Las Tunas Pediatric Hospital. She was going to supervise the operation of the cassettes of the pulmonary ventilators he had been working on for years. But when she was holding on to the machine, she noticed the little body wrapped in tubes and the perspective hid, for seconds, inside her chest.
Las Tunas, Cuba.- Yeranny Hernández Rodríguez confesses that the biomedical engineer is not in charge when the intertwining of sensations paralyzes her before a child who is struggling in uncertain terrain... She always comes out of this situation with multiplied determination and returns to the Center for Clinical Engineering and Electromedicine with the urgency of not resting because "at some point, someone's life could be in our hands".
She makes it clear that her specialty, life support, is not a job with a timetable, nor can it be left in the office. From this "loyalty" came the challenge of finding a solution to reuse the expiratory cassettes of the mechanical ventilators in the province's therapy wards, for which spare parts have not been available for more than five years.
"The idea of reprogramming the cassettes came to me together with my husband, with whom I also share the profession, although he is in charge of imaging. And it came about, of course, because of the need to find solutions to maintain the vitality of the medical equipment. In the case of the cassettes, they have a limited life, after 15,000 hours of use they expire, which is a little more than a year of operation.
"As soon as we opened the first one, it occurred to us that the failure was a programming issue and we immediately started reading, studying, and researching a lot to find a shortcut, but we didn't have the means in our hands. I assure you it was an issue we never put off. The expiratory cassettes monitor the flow of air expired by the patient, a parameter that doctors need to evaluate and that cannot be ignored.
"In 201, we traveled to Venezuela as collaborators. And I can tell you that there, without much work, we found a programmer and bought it without haggling a single peso. There, COVID-19 caught up with us, we dealt with the epidemic in the front row, we got sick, we were 27 months away from our daughter and the return was one of the most pleasant things I can list.
"A few months later we reprogrammed the first cassette, watched it like a small child and it is still stable and reliable. Today, the six operating in the pediatric hospital have our stamp, and we have not stopped improving the equipment, to ensure that their numbers save lives.
Yeranny speaks passionately about her work. She is just over 30 years old and does not see herself in any other scenario, other than opening equipment and rummaging through operating systems. She assures us that the crisis generated by COVID-19 has made them more committed, and more obstinate in their strategies and challenges.
"We live in complex times, with a shortage of essential resources, but at the call of the hospital centers, the urgency does not understand the lack of spare parts, late imports, or economic blockade. We are the ones they count on, and there is no choice but to add time, knowledge, and commitment to respond with solutions. It is also the only way I know of to be able to rest my head on my pillow and get some sleep.”