FLINT, Michigan – When the housing market crumbled, former construction worker and business owner Jason Flowers had a plan. Always interested in medicine, he started down a path which has led him to his Master of Science in Anesthesia from the University of Michigan-Flint. On the way, he designed a potentially life-saving device called the MieT Tube.
Flowers met a certified registered nurse anesthetist while he was building homes in Tennessee. A week later, he applied to the nursing program at Tennessee Tech University.
“I fell in love with the operating room,” says Flowers, 32.
After finishing his Bachelor’s degree in nursing, the Ann Arbor native returned to Michigan and began attending UM-Flint. During his studies, Flowers worked at Hurley Medical Center — primarily with young patients who needed ear, nose, or throat surgeries. With these children, many of whom already had irritable airways, each patient was a challenge and the tubes needed covered a wide range of sizes.
And, getting the right size is critically important.
Too big and the tube could critically damage the child’s airway. Too small and fluids can start entering the lungs.
“It’s crazy to think that we live so consistently and so easily, but four minutes without oxygen and it’s just done,” says Flowers.
So, he came up with a solution: The MieT Tube, or, in somewhat layman’s terms, the Minimally Invasive Expandable Tracheal Tube.
Drawing on his background in construction, Flowers developed the idea of creating a mechanical device that uniformly expands its diameter without changing its overall length. His design utilizes interconnected ladder trusses and a series of mechanical expansion points, enabling the tube to both expand and shrink when necessary.
The MieT Tube eliminates guesswork, minimizes the chance of injury, and reduces the time it takes to clear an airway.
“With a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old, you’re talking about an airway that’s smaller than your pinky — by a lot. When you’re in an emergent intubation scenario, you don’t have a lot of time,” Flowers says.
Flowers graduates from UM-Flint in August and will take his board exams two days later. But his invention already is drawing attention. He won the Hagerman Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Business Pitch Competition, has a prototype of the MieT Tube and is applying for Small Business Innovation Research funding to help, he hopes, bring his invention to market and help save lives.