This episode brings HOPE! Chris Austin, President of Sea-Long Medical, joins Dr. Ken Brown and Eric Rieger to talk about how his company is saving lives and resources during the pandemic. Sea-Long produces very inexpensive solutions for patients that would normally require a mechanical ventilator, by using a hyperbaric helmet that fits over the head of the patient. Chris has seen his demand for their products sky-rocket since the ventilator shortage has become a concern worldwide. Check out how the hemet works and watch Chris give Ken & Eric a quick demo on how to fit the helmet to any patient. Stay safe, and like and share today!
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Hello everyone it is now time for Gut Check Project COVID file number four. We have an incredible guest today with joining your host Dr. Ken Brown. We how now have Mr. Chris Austin from Waxahachie, Texas. He is here with sea long medical and you may have seen some of his incredible essentially their vent hoods they are hyperbaric vent hoods that allow people to breathe better. Chris, thank you so much for taking time out of I know is a very busy morning as you prepare for for more work at Sea-Long Medical down here in Waxahachie. How are you doing?
Oh, we’re doing well. We’re, we’re we’re feeling good. Oh, no. And first of all, I need to apologize a little bit. It’s starting already. My voice starts to go away. Early and earlier every day because of so much talking and stuff we do but anyway, we’re doing well just not much sleep and a whole lot of talking but it’s all it’s all great. It’s all wonderful. People are being so, so supportive, it’s just I can’t even get my head around it still.
Well, no, it’s it’s awesome. We’re obviously in the middle of the pandemic here with the with the COVID crisis but can you want to speak a little bit about what it is that you saw on the TV and why you called me and how I ended up reaching out to Chris.
Absolutely. I may sound a little different because the internet went out of the studio so I’m doing this by phone so that’s yeah, so you and I are feeling the same thing here. So I was watching and I kind of joke about this that I’ve actually become my dad and I like 60 minutes now so a lot 60 minutes.
My granddad so don’t…I’m with you there.
And they did this incredible segment. First of all, they they lead up to it with this with the the stress that the New York doctors are under followed by nurse segment, which was just incredible, and I don’t want give anything away but I just sat down with holy cow, he’s a neighbor. We’re here in Dallas, you’re in Waxahachie, Texas, and fortunately, like a like a good Texan you woke up early and agreed to do this interview just because you’re a nice guy, so it’s pretty exciting.
Well that’s I appreciate all that but I we’re up, we’ve been up working here for over an hour already. We’ve been starting at six because of the crisis and staying here til two in the morning the other day, I was there till four in the morning day before yesterday. Just the way it flows go. So, but thank you very much.
So Chris, before we started the interview, you let me know that sea long medical has been around basically doing these hyperbaric helmets since 1985. But you ended up acquiring the company and moving it from Kentucky down to Waxahachie, Texas back in 2016. What drew Chris Austin to sea long medical and then to bring it down here to Waxahachie?
That’s good question the, the whole thing started because we have a mutual friend who lived up by Lake Possum Kingdom. And he manufactures hyperbaric hoods does a company called tekna industries and through mutual friends and something like that we became friends. And I have diabetes. So I have neuropathy pretty bad. And was having a lot of problems with my legs. Can you say, Chris, come up here. Let’s do some dives. Let’s fix that and I didn’t really know anything about it at the time. So I said I wanted to come see him anyway it’s a beautiful area up there. I went up and staying awhile and took took some treatments, a week’s worth of treatments and it’s It was incredibly incredibly life changing what happened. I could drastically reduce my insulin. The…neuropathy I’m sorry, it’s just went away for not not forever it was gone for about a month. So it was definitely a you know, a changing event for me. I mean it was a whole bunch of other things happened that some people say doesn’t happen but my eyesight got better my hearing my sense of smell. You know, it’s like a Popeye when I ate this big can of spinach kind of and I said, you know what last getting off track here kinda I used the sea long hood. That’s what I use for my treatments. And because that’s what he uses. He wasn’t he was pretty good friends but pretty good friends with the previous owner and after a while I’ve gone back and done several more and same results. And he called me. Philip called me and said, Chris, I need to talk to you. So okay, great. No problem. Got up there and did another treatment. And he said, you know, that product you’re using, that’s hood. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. He goes, it’s probably going to go out of business. The owners have been around a long time, and they’re ready to, you know, retire and move on. And nobody has taken up on his offer to buy the company. And he stated that the company is so important and the product is so important. I really think you ought to buy it because I had just retired after 30 years as an aerospace engineer.
That’s what we did.
Wow, that is incredible. So I’m actually far more endeared to the story. You are drawn to it because of your own personal experience and benefit. You knew you needed to save the technology so that other people could have that benefit. That drew you into it. You were in retirement, you said that this is something that we can do. You had no idea that there’s gonna be a pandemic, though around the corner in 2020, did you?
Not really? But I’ll tell you a huge cascade of events in my life for probably three or four years before that, Up to that time, and significantly after that time, made this all possible. No, it mandated it that this was going to happen. You know, we knew about the the aspects of the potential for a great life saving product for non invasive ventilation. And it just spoke, spoke to my heart and my mind right there said, this is what we’re doing. This is our destiny. And that’s why we’re here.
That’s incredible. Wow.
So You, you said that there was a gentleman who was at sea long. Was sea long medical created simply for the…the manufacturing of the hyperbaric helmet?
Correct. No, no Sea-Long…he, see here. That’s a big, big story. But He -he previously owned a very large injection molding corporation.
And a man by the name of Shorty Long, who was acquaintance of his, who was a professional deep sea diver said, I need something like this and it doesn’t exist. They drew up a sketch on a napkin kind of thing. And the helmet was born. And shorty long said I don’t I’m a diver. I’ve got a big diving business and stuff here. I don’t want it…you run with it. You’ve already got all the equipment and all this. So I did.
Well, you kind of hinted at it already because of your own revelations on how you began to feel better. I had a question written down which was to ask you before the COVID situation if if beyond the helmet being an intermediary step before or hopefully saving somebody from intubation, if there were specific diseases that it worked for but you already mentioned, retinopathy and diabetes, do you know if anybody like with sickle cell anemia what…are those are those types of patients that also benefit from this type of hyperbaric helmet?
Well, as you guys know, in the medical field, there’s there’s a lot of things we have to tread lightly on as far as what we say.
No, I’m gonna say it. I’m just giving you that caveat up front. Because the vast vast majority of the indications that we have…I can’t even count how many…people have told us this. Plus as we are so became so close to the industry and the and the the process I’ve personally seen been there and talked to amazing things. children with autism, PTSD course an incredible array of soft tissue damage. Incredible, incredible positive results for traumatic brain injury. And one of them in particular if you look up Joe Namath, you know, the famous New York Jets, quarterback, and few more, but he’s got all kinds of stuff on the YouTube and various places about him telling his story about his whole life was changed due to 100 dives in a hyperbaric chamber. completely correct…completely corrected all of his brain damage. I can go I can go on with this kind of statement for hours and hours, just one after the other after the other.
Chris, can I clarify something real quick, so does the helmet act like a hyperbaric chamber?
No, it just provides well in the hyperbaric chamber, it provides the pure oxygen that works with, you know, the atmospheric pressure to about 3 ATA, or 60…70 feet you know something or something like that. And the pure oxygen coming into the respiratory system gets supercharged in every single cell in your body. Every cell gets this this amazing product that the cells know how to use to do their job. So all of a sudden, they start doing their job better than they ever have, and, you know, doing all kinds of great stuff in in cells, that a lot of people have said, no, you’ll never regenerate these cells. Those cells are once they die, they’re gone. That’s not true, least for a vast majority of them, like brain cells and heart cells and things like that.
Plus one thing I forgot to add probably the most important part is during the process of the hyperbaric treatments, your body starts producing a huge amount of its own pluripotent stem cells. So those cells now are happy and fed, they start grabbing all the stem cells and just go into work repairing stuff.
Nice. Now that all of that all that makes makes complete sense with the way that we’ve tried to help and repair people neurogenically, etc. I’ve got another question for you and Ken and I debated on how how clinical that we wanted to get on this particular series, but where you’re taking it’s, it’s almost inevitable. Part of the problem that some of the people are worried about, or the physicians are worried about with the patients now with COVID is that some of their red blood cells may actually lose a little bit of the oxygen carrying capacity. And they’ve decided that they may need to look at things that are hyperbaric and different different types of modalities that do exactly what you just talked about supercharge extra extemporaneous. I’m mispronouncing that word, but the extra cells around them. Is that something you found with the helmet that could work?
Yeah, that’s what it’s for you bet it could work.
It does work. It has been working for that for 35 plus years. But one of the most important things too…I keep saying that but everything so they’re all important is that…angiogenesis in your body starts forming new blood vessels and in getting blood to places that may have been either either starved due to previous conditions, or the body senses that nope now these things need to be repaired. For whatever reason it may be that you know the the virus could have done damage…just whatever reasons.
So before the helmet came along, people were scrambling in the the word of street was we were going to run out of ventilators and everybody knows that usually in the ballpark of 10,000 12,000 is the low end on the amount of money that they’d have to spend per unit. Tell us a little bit about what the the helmet cost the medical community and where you’ve moved the price since then, Chris.
Well, the the helmet before all this happened was $162 and 70 cents, and it’s still $162 and 70 cents. That’s the basic model, which at the time, we produced and provided that based on usage before, like Dr. Chris and others who were doing the testing, but once this, the COVID-19 epidemic started, we became much more popular and a larger number of doctors started using it and people started figuring out there’s different things that can be done. There’s different accessories, particularly Dr. Chris Patel, there’s different accessories that really would help us. And they would send us videos and we’d correspond. And then we would go, we have a great team we pair with called impact. They would 3d print the stuff I’d sketch it all out on a piece of paper or something, and they and they would make the design and we come back and like we liked it, or we didn’t like it, we’d send it to Dr. Pel, Dr. Chris and Dr. Patel, and they’d, you know, critique it and if it was a good product, we’d make it right there. We could have made in a matter of hours. Well, the 3d printer, ship it back to him. And we’ve made a bunch of improvements. So long story but we’ve got a significant number of additional accessories. And that’s what makes it possible to use this without a ventilator or any type of equipment. All you need is wall oxygen and wall O2 and a special part that we created to plug that into the system, and a peep valve, and you can do all this with no equipment.
Oh, that’s incredible.
That is incredible.
That’s the holy grail because in third world countries have people lined up in the halls, which is already happening in New York, Boston, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. You can treat them all with just just three quarter inch lines.
Wow, that’s great. Hey, when I saw the interview on 60 minutes, you did tell a very unique story about how somebody may have helped you infuse a little cash into the company.
Yeah, talking about George Whitesides and Virgin Galactic. Been a locks up maximum no cash per se, which is another complete story. We’ve had no assistance from federal state local dog catchers nothing.
Which is good because Charlie, our security she’d be…no she’s not good for a dog catcher. Oh, we were on Wall Street Journal first. That was first one to really contact me and Mr. Whitesides, who was the CEO of Virgin Galactic, called me up somehow he got got a link to me. Why do I get to a man named? Well go there, but uh, he’s the Chris. I really liked what you do. What can we do to help? And we talked a little bit and I said, really what I need sir, is more RF welding machines. I mean we have a great partner in a company called Selectric up in New Jersey. Walker, the owner built four machines for us at risk, which means he didn’t have any funds because I didn’t have any money. He built them all…they were sitting there ready, all shiny, polished up ready to load into an 18 wheeler to bring down here and I still didn’t have any money. So when I when I talk to Mr. Whitesides about that he goes, what’s this guy’s phone number? Gave him the phone number. We chatted and went our separate ways and about two hours later so Walter calls me and said somebody just called and paid your entire bill.
So you know, praise God. Two days later they were here.
And that’s fantastic.
And they’re now up and running. Really first day with the full crew was yesterday. We’ve been slowly training people as they come in. Primarily most of them are all volunteers from very, very close locally to our location. Because we know we can’t rely on someone who has a long commute or you know, we had to verify their their lifestyle. They don’t continue to run around out there and go to Walmarts and all these places to get a potential for contracting the virus. So it took a little while to get the whole, get the whole crew. But the first day first full day was yesterday. And we hit our goal spot on for how many we created and was able to provide them to Pennsylvania. And who else? Several people that we really wanted to get them to the hotspots in saying that they shipped overnight yesterday.
So how many you’re able to produce in a 24 hour period with this full crew?
Sorry, the, you know the first phase are always more difficult. These are new operators. We only had one experienced operator, which is our son, Chris Sr. And he was mostly spent training. So that that caveat is this was very slow training brand new people who had never done anything like this. So we still got over 200 out in one day, which was a good start, but we need to be and we will be. At least by next week we’ll be knockin on a thousand. So that’s our goal.
That is amazing.
I have a quick question for you since I didn’t realize that that was that I thought there was more equipment needed.
Ventilator. All that kind of stuff, hooks on it too.
Oh okay. Is there do you see any with your engineering background is there any way to modify it so that people with a C pap machine at home could use this in any particular way?
We already do. CPAP, Bi-PAP, you know, ventilators, anything like that where you can control your positive pressure. But you don’t need to do that. I’m looking for…all you need’s a peep valve to control the outflow to maintain your desired pressure inside the helmet. And that’s all you need.
So you’re gonna…you’ll dial up the atmospheres basically what’s going to be inside of the bariatric helm…the the helmet
Happens to me all the time.
Yeah, that’s all the words, but you’ll dial up the atmospheres or the amount of pressure that you want in there with that peep valve. Correct? And then…
Yeah, and the source as long as you have a good clean viable relatively consistent source for the inflow, which we’re finding new sources for that all the time.
You just control the outflow to maintain the pressure inside.
Well, you know, a lot of the patients who end up having problems with pneumonia lung collapse, for instance, it’s because they lose that alveolus. Right? And it seems to me like what you’ve got here is something that Ken and I talked about in our last episode, which is how do we give someone positive and expiratory pressure? And one of the ways to do that is obviously by having a good steady form of peep. And this is far more comfortable than either a tube down the throat or a big face mask like a C pap or bipap mask. This just seems far more convenient. It allows the patient to not have something directly on their face. It’s it’s pretty incredible
Is there any chance you have the…
The masks leak. I’m sorry, cellphone delays I’m used to this…masks leak, as you apply all of this pressure, they want to push it away from the patient’s face. So you really can’t get any kind of a ensured pressure. Unless you just strap the thing on like a you know, what is his name from scary movies, which is very uncomfortable and things like that. And they still have a large potential for leaking around the nose, and there’s nothing against them. They’re fantastic products. It’s just not the best suited thing for this kind of positive pressure.
I agree. Well, Chris, I see that you have turned your shoulder a little bit, and you might even have some equipment back there that you could probably show us on how it works. Unless, unless you’re you know, unless you’re embarrassed. I don’t know but it looks like a pretty awesome piece of equipment to me. would you would you mind showing us how you apply it?
Sure, hold on a second.
This is great. I love this guy.
What a cool situation. He just said I liked what this does. I’m gonna do this at home.
This is the peep valve I know I had one sitting over under my chair.
Well, that’s kind of the…the hood itself…it has been for a long, long time, is basically a bubble I saw a space helmet. Clear trash can whatever you want to call it. The key is that this is made out of a very robust yet soft and clear material because we can sit…squash it down like this and I can easily ship and store and if I push them in like that, then we have the next sealed part, which this one’s already been cut for me, you get a cut template way to measure your neck with a little tape measure and then when you cut this out and look closer you might see some graduated rings on it…well the instructions say okay, if your neck is 17 inches you cut the third ring from the top or something to that effect. And then once you have it cut for your neck and the cut rings apply an interference. In other words, people we’ve had a problem with people saying okay, well this is cut from my neck if I’m a 17 I cut it to this line that says 17, it won’t be tight enough. So I need to cut another line to make it tight on me or loose on me. Don’t do that. That’s all figured in there.
Well, that’s kind of one of the problems we have. People say oh, I leaked I leaked. I go, how did you do it? No, don’t add or subtract cut it the way the paper says,
Hey, while we’re talking about that, what about somebody…and what about a woman with really long hair because you have to pull it up or a men with a hairy neck would we want to shave that or if they have like a central line, you just kind of go ahead and stay with the same cut just try to keep those things out of the way?
No, it has to be out of the way it’s dry. You want to do it for intubation, you have to do it. It’s like people who are firefighters or other type of the profession and they use masks they have to shave their neck. So it’s the same thing. So and this ring has two ports, which doesn’t matter which one they’re they’re not directional. So you put the inflow and the outflow, into these ports. And that’s the standard part. Oh, one thing this one’s called accessory port. It’s a tapered hollow cone per se with the same graduated lines. So if you want to put a feeding tube or another O2 line or sensors protecting oxygen or carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sorry we can do all that for you there. And then this is put on the patient’s head, which I will do. And I’ll just say that this is the easiest one there, to put on somebody’s head, so first of all, it takes two or three people. Make sure it’s got a good seal. Now it’s on.
That fast. Not exactly straight, but you get the idea.
And then this has got a big seal.
And then you also have ports here. Or feeding lines here. It’s not an add to it’s kind of an instead of because some patients are more comfortable with it up here, some doctors like it here or say that, you know the where the host comes from. So from here from here below…
I saw how quickly Chris, you’re able to apply and then even more importantly, how fast you’re able to disassemble it. So a concern of a patient that needed to be accessed, you know, like their airway would be it’s incredibly rapid. It looks like to me like yeah, that’s pretty effective. Nothing to it, nothing to it at all.
And there’s, because of this usage, we provide this type of a clip, which clips the two parts of the helmet together. So other larger pressures, they won’t separate and it goes underneath there arm and one hooks in the back one hooks in the front and you have one under both arms so it folds it down very secured. And there’s a quick release feature you can’t see the little pin right there. All you gotta do is go pop and and the lines and everything separates. So it’s basically virtually no delay still under three seconds.
So do you have, is there a Is there a maximum pressure that’s recommended for the helmet?
Oh, that’s depending on the respiratory therapist and the physicians. But we test every single part every single part to a half psi, which is far above anything they would ever need.
Okay. And then what about like in tidal co2 measuring the respiratory rate do y’all have like a device or are you are you able just to use a normal sera port line to make that happen?
Normal stuff. Yeah.
That is incredible.
I want to ask you a quick question about the University of Chicago study. When I was reading that it was stopped early because it was proven to be so much more effective that the mask that they that they didn’t even need their number to actually completely enroll. It was so successful that they stopped early. How did you end up getting University Chicago involved?
Well, they came to us because they knew they knew of the product and it was made in the USA and they like the the multi ports and several other aspects of it. And we also have a product we call multi patient. It actually has a different design, which you have the neck sealed part like this. See this comes right now, fully assembled ready to go. A seal sealed together with an O ring inside it so it’s it’s unable to leave. We have another one, that this part can be taken, taken apart after the fact. And then the patients only need their own neck seal portion. So you can reuse them over and over and over. And he really liked that, that aspect of it. So that’s that’s what he wanted, we were the only one that has that. So, but for this horrible virus, we have to make as many parts as possible, which is an unbelievable task. So we streamline it used to have a lot a complete line of a bunch of different things. And we’ve ceased production on on virtually everything except what you see right there. So we can pump out more of those. Because once you get rid of all the other stuff, we concentrate on just a small number of parts we can you can get much more
Man that is…that’s an incredible piece of equipment. I wish that we’d we’d had that and been trained on that back in the anaesthesia education days. That’s pretty awesome.
This has gotta be one of those things that when when we show it to medical students 10 years from now, it’ll be a revolutionary change and how we we treat people with ARDS with pneumonia with everything.
And people are finding things it seems like every day but pretty much monthly, different applications, different benefits….exciting things that we find out, especially when we found out about autism, PTSD, brain, I mean brain damage I could go on and on and on several autoimmune diseases and the only thing that it really got used for prior to this because we can never get any traction at all with other than Chicago and a couple of other places that have been doing studies, like Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins and some pretty prestigious places and people got it. But we just couldn’t get traction with with certification. But now that’s kind of changed.
Yeah, it’s kind of changed.
Just a little bit, just a little bit. Well, Chris, Ken, did you have any other questions for Chris, this is incredible.
One question for you, Chris, how can we help you…
You know really, I’ve said this over and over and it sounds kind of shallow, maybe but we need money. We have to buy more tooling to increase the flow for our raw material providers. We ha…have to. We’re going to go through certification and stuff to make sure things were on where we need to be for our paperwork for FDA stuff we need more equipment and more people. And we need a bigger building. Because right now we’re working out of our home. This is my living room. So that’s what we need. And people have been doing so many amazing things right now with at the grassroots level. We have quite a few corporations helping us like Virgin Galactic, GM, some things like that, but you know, they’re doing what they can for keeping us propped up or actually pushing us up, helping us keep going. But and at the at the suggestion, almost at the command of a whole bunch of people who said you need a GoFundMe page we want to help you know, we only we get it, we know what you’re doing and where, where you’re going. So I just stuck up a GoFundMe page that there’s a link to that on our website. I’ll just go ahead and send you the URL to that it’s, it’s gone so much. I can’t wrap my head around it and it just started last Friday or Saturday, I can’t remember.
Well, we’ll we’re gonna push it out also. Definitely.
And we’re gonna be giving updates via the web page right now we haven’t really had you know, I can’t do it myself, my son or myself would normally do it, but he he’s making the products and leading the crew back there. So we don’t get as much information on there as we like or on our web page but we’ve got some friends from church church helping us now so hopefully we’ll be able to get the latest and greatest.
Man, that’s it’s just an incredible story and I’m so obviously I wish that you didn’t have to suffer with the diabetes and the retinopathy but I’m so glad that you had it and that you found somebody at Possum Kingdom to show you everything. It’s just awesome.
That’s that’s some of the events that happened. My previous career that I wanted to retire in, and God is good, that’s the best thing I can say so many things, and so many people, and any one of those things we wouldn’t have been on this path. So…
That is incredible. And the fact, you’re probably working harder in your retirement than you ever have.
I gotta go back to my career to rest. But I would never do that. I would never do that. This is this is what we were supposed to do. We just didn’t know it yet.
I believe it I looked at you and I realized that this your life was built to be right here where you are in this moment. And I…you’re going to change the destiny of so many people, and I want to thank you for all the work that you’re doing.
Well, thank you. It’s not just us. It’s people like yourselves that get the word out and get it. You know, you see it as a professional in the industry, but you also see it as an individual, and this is…that’s, that’s a big, big plus is to see the look. And if you got time to tell one story yesterday, we were working like crazy. And I can tell you untold numbers like this. And we’ve had to secure the facility here, because we were having hundreds and hundreds of people just show up to try to help, which is great. But it’s, you know, the publicity and stuff. And they’d be knocking on our doors all day and all night. So I just drove from, you know, Wisconsin, here I am. great people, great people in that. I mean, we’d all be just tearing up and falling from the stuff these people would say what they wanted to do, and some of them are still here, by the way. Showing up in their campers who said I’m here to help as a volunteer, whatever do you need? Anyway, this lady shows up. And she says, I just came from Chicago directly. And because of the sheer volume of phone calls we’ve been getting, people aren’t getting through. Internet as you know, those down phones are just completely clogged up. Emails, yeah I’ve been getten close to 1000 a day. So she couldn’t get through. She said we we have such a dire need. I mean, I have people right now that need this. So I just jumped on a plane and flew down here hoping I could just see you. So our people at the gate, let her in and came and found me and she told her story and just started she start crying and balling and stuff. And we’ll just say we were able to help her in she’s headed back home today.
Man that’s a fantastic story. Chris, as we close out, don’t hang up. But I do want to thank everybody here at gut check project. Do us a favor, just share the story. It’s an honor to have Chris on with us today from sea long medical. This is Chris Austin present and owner of sea long medical in Waxahachie, Texas.
I said, not owner just president. My wife and my daughter in law who’s a Doctor of Physical Therapy. They’re the owners.
Oh, nice. So he knows the owners pretty well at sea long medical.
That’s right. I sleep with one of them.
Chris, you might want to talk to the owners about how hard they’re making you work.
Hey Ken, anything to close out the show. Like I said, hang on, hang on to the end. Everyone, episode 4 like and share like and share. Chris, Chris Austin of Sea-Long Medical. Let’s get the word out. Let’s work together on on this COVID crisis and we’re gonna pull through together. We’ll talk to everybody soon.