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They fashioned their first device with PVC vinyl and seatbelt webbing and put 10 handles on it so the weight of the person could be distributed to a maximum of 10 people. The device was also designed so that patient’s head and face stuck out and was exposed for patient care purposes. It was designed to be carried at an arm’s length and would be approximately eight to 10 inches off the floor when carried, thus medics would not strain while lifting the device. They decided to call their new found invention the ManSAC (SAC stands for Single Axis Carrier).
The first time the ManSAC was used, it carried a patient who weighed 750 pounds. As Chavez described, “It was unbelievably light since the weight of the patient was distributed to the 10 people who were carrying the patient.”
The ManSAC is designed to carry up to 1,600 pounds, but has been subjected to a battery of independent testing from an engineering firm and has sustained up to 3,000 pounds. It is effective for removing heavy patients, rapid extrication, and the moving of patients down stairs and around corners. A patient who is transported in the ManSAC can be moved in the supine or sitting position. The ManSAC can also be used in conjunction with a backboard, which has been proven valuable during cardiac arrest sequences and with patients needing spinal immobilization. It is currently being used by several fire departments as part of rapid intervention teams. The ManSAC is also impervious to body fluids and chemicals and can be cleaned and reused in most cases.
As word of the new device and its capability spread, Chavez, working on a shoestring budget, went to the library and found out how to do a patent search. He did the search personally and after most of the legwork was done, he hired a lawyer to file the paperwork. Becknal became the salesman while Chavez oversaw the operation. They decided to trying marketing the ManSAC at a couple of fire conferences and suddenly the orders started rolling in. In fact, there were more orders than they expected.
The “production line” for the ManSAC became Chavez’s mother-in-law – Chavez bought a sewing machine and his mother-in-law went to work producing the ManSACs. As orders increased, another woman was brought on to the production line. Today, the ManSAC can be found in Dallas, Austin, Baltimore, San Antonio, Memphis and Chicago, as well as other cities.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Chavez and Becknal certainly proved this with their invention of the ManSAC. If you ever see a ManSAC in use or if your department starts carrying it, know that the taco shell was the idea behind it and with some ingenuity and perspiration, progress can be made.
For more information, go to www.manchavproductions.com or call 713-691-5815.
Gary Ludwig, MS, EMT-P, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is the chief of Special Operations for Jefferson County, MO. He retired in 2001 as the chief paramedic for the St. Louis Fire Department after serving the City of St. Louis for 25 years. He is also vice chairman of the EMS Section of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). He is a frequent speaker at EMS and fire conferences nationally and internationally, and is on the faculty of three colleges. Ludwig has a master’s degree in management and business and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and is a licensed paramedic. He also operates The Ludwig Group, a professional consulting firm. He can be reached at 636 789-5660 or via www.garyludwig.com.