Imagine an infant, gasping for breath admitted to the hospital with a serious illness. What this tiny baby needs urgently is a respirator, a device that will help him breathe and thus sustain life.
The first highly reliable, medical respirator in the world was invented by Forrest Bird. Often called the 'Babybird' respirator, this wonderful device reduced infant death drastically across the world.
Forrest Bird was born in Massachusetts USA. His father was a World War I pilot and encouraged his son to fly at a very early age. By 14, Bird could fly an airplane by himself.
He joined the Air force as technical air training officer during World War II. This gave him a chance to fly, a wide variety of airplanes. Some of these were designed to fly very high, at altitudes where a pilot would find it difficult to breathe.
This problem triggered Bird’s imagination. He wanted to create devices, which would aid breathing in such altitudes. So deep was his involvement, that he quit his job, and went back to attend Medical school. Studying Medicine gave him an insight into the complete workings of the human system. He understood the mechanics of human breathing.
And the first artificial “respirator” was made. Bird had developed the first device, which could help people breathe. This innovation of Bird, however, was to be used, not by pilots, but by seriously ill patients with breathing difficulty. So earnest was he that he traveled in his own airplane to medical schools and asked doctors for their most ill patients. If these patients were not aided with the respirator, they would die. He tested the device on such patients. This test itself saved many lives.
The respirator became a great success and was known as “the bird”. It was a common statement among doctors to say , “if all else has failed, get the bird”. 'The Bird' was a little green box which became familiar to hospital patients throughout the world after it was introduced in 1958.