DC Couple Skips Honeymoon to Help Health Care Workers During Pandemic

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A newlywed couple from D.C. skipped their honeymoon to develop a digital blueprint for a respirator that can be made on 3D printers that hospitals and businesses are downloading all around the world.

The couple, Destie Provenzano and Dr. Yuan James Rao, planned on getting married in March to an audience of 250 family members and friends. However, the guest list started to shrink as the coronavirus pandemic grew.

“We had about 90 percent cancellations in the last 48 hours. And we have many friends and friends of friends and family members who are health care providers, and some of them were worried during that time because they thought they had actually been exposed to the virus,” said Provenzano.

They had a ceremony, anyway, donating the extra meals from their reception to a local homeless shelter. And they put their honeymoon on hold. Instead of going on an exotic cruise, the newlyweds stayed home and found a way to give back.

Dr. Rao, a radiation oncologist at George Washington University Hospital, and Provenzano, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering at George Washington University, combined their expertise to create a digital blueprint for 3D printing respirators.

Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia

COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia

Source: DC, MD and VA Health Departments
Credit: Anisa Holmes / NBC Washington

“It took us five days from initial idea conception to research to prototype to successful test,” Provenzano said.


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Now, the blueprint has been downloaded about 5,000 times, according to Provenzano, and the couple has received requests from a number of different groups that want to work with them.

They said they had a lot of help designing the respirator from GW's radiation oncology team, the Department of Biomedical Engineering and members of GW’s anesthesiology and critical care medicine teams.

The couple said the respirators are reusable, but they’re meant to be used as a backup in case supplies run out, rather than being a replacement for N95 masks. The couple hopes to submit their plans to the FDA in the future.

“I'm so thankful that I met Destie, that we're together, that we're a couple and that we've had the chance to use our connections and use our knowledge to help other people,” said Rao.

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