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VIDEO: Canadian-Croatian brothers’ DIY respirator in demand 

John and Matthew Milkovich

TORONTO, 15 April 2020 – A PPE respirator created from parts around the house by two young brothers of Croatian descent in Canada has quickly attracted plenty of interest. 

John (20) and Matthew (17) Milkovich, who reside in the rural area of Caledon, northwest of Toronto, have created a respirator using a snorkel mask found on a trip to Croatia, a 3D printed adapter and anesthesia filters.

John is currently finishing his second year at McMaster University studying iBiomed, a hybrid course of engineering and health sciences, whilst Matthew has just been accepted to the same program. 

“My mother is a nurse and my father is a doctor and my brother and I both wish to pursue careers in healthcare, likely medicine. Surgery for me and anesthesia for my brother. My parents working in healthcare got us thinking about their safety in these pandemic times when they will be required to look after COVID patients and we were also concerned about some of the threats of shortages of protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers,” John explains, before continuing.  

“We saw an Italian doctor using a mask like the one we modified to treat patients with COVID in a way to help them breathe but also to keep the virus contained and stop it spreading to others. It was a mask much like the ones we used when we were younger and snorkeling in the Adriatic.  We used them every day at the beach and knew how good they were at giving a seal so we thought about modifying it. I saw my dad was trying to find an industrial 3M respirator online for himself but they are all sold-out. When we saw that, my brother asked my dad, who is an anesthetist if his filters could be used if connected to the mask. We developed a design and modified it a few times with the help of our neighbour who likes to tinker and has a 3D printer.”

Excited that the prototype worked, the brothers decided to share the idea in a video that was posted on YouTube. 

“It has blown up since that video was posted. We have had a number of requests for help to modify other people’s masks, people have bought the same mask and we have helped them print their own T pieces, or mailed them some of ours. We have had people reach out from New York, Georgia, Mexico, Panama, California, Nunavut. The masks have also been bought in bulk by a couple of local ICU’s and anesthetists as back up for N95 shortages. My dad and one of his colleagues were so impressed that they said they would rather use it than the N95s personally but of course we can’t recommend that,” John said. 

Both John and Matthew are proud of their Croatian heritage. Their father’s, family is from Lika (Baske Ostarije on Velebit and Trnovac near Gospic), whilst their mother’s family comes from the Imotski area and Cista Velika.

“We have been to Croatia three times for family vacations and are always overwhelmed by its diverse beauty and warm, welcoming people and not to mention our extended family. We were planning on returning this summer but that will obviously need to get pushed off until next summer I hope. I have an aunt that lives on Hvar island and it has to be one of our favourite places to visit. All in all, I like to credit my Croatian upbringing highlighting the importance of family to coming up with this design. We are a close family and this was inspired and designed by our family effort. My brother and I had a lot of time during social distancing and after we cut each others hair we put our minds to this and after a lot of debate, arguing,  and research we came up with something easy and practical that would be easy to describe, share, and disperse in a time of critical shortages,” John concludes. 

Watch the video below. 

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