Forrest Bird – 2008 National Medal of Technology & Innovation


You know I never considered myself an inventor I’m afraid but I would see a problem and then I’d try to take and rationalize a solution to the problem. Forrest Bird has spent more than five decades keeping people breathing. I think – you know, I’ve lived a marvelous life. Well, actually, it began probably in World War II. And one of our limitations in World War II was getting our pilots up ver- — up at altitude, and we were limited at that time to 28,000 feet, but many of our turbocharged airplanes then would go to 40,000 feet. And I worked on the team that we developed pressure breathing. Much of the technology that we developed getting our pilots up to higher altitudes was carried over into my work of developing the respirators that actually would breathe for medical patients. Bird’s Mark 7 respirator soon became the standard for care in all hospitals. later on, I developed what was called a “Baby Bird.” Premature babies who were born with heart
and lung problems died at staggering numbers before the Baby Bird. And once we got out, within two years the mortality went from seventy percent down
under ten percent. I just feel so good about this and we all did. The biggest thing in medicine is, the quicker you get somebody from the site of trauma – of course, under medical care – the better the outcome. Now, back in Vietnam, when we star- [of] course, that was a helicopter war. We went over and we put our medical respirators onboard the helicopter. Once again, Bird’s procedure cut mortality from 80% to under 20%. Intensive care Transport, or Medevac, is now used in most hospitals today. I could be at odds with the world and have
all kinds of problems. And you know you get up and you look down on earth, and it is really beautiful. And you come down, you’re all ready to start over again. It’s really, truly great.

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