Article 31 June/July 2011

The Brook Airway

Expired-air resuscitation is an ancient method of resuscitation, first mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. Unfortunately, expired-air resuscitation was discontinued in 1812 and replaced with less effective methods after the British Royal Humane Society declared that expired air was poisonous.

Fast forward to 1957 when major research into artificial resuscitation methods carried out in the United States once again endorsed the centuries old technique of reviving non-breathing victims by blowing directly into their mouth. But would-be rescuers were reluctant to use this new rescue breathing method. Not everyone was sufficiently dedicated to make the necessary direct contact for successful mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

This is where the Brook Airway came in. Invented by Dr. Morris Brook with assistance by his brothers Dr. Joseph Brook and Dr. Max Brook, the Brook Airway overcame the objections to the direct mouth-to-mouth contact as well, the patented one-way valve prevented air/stomach contents from the patient 'coming back' at the rescuer.

Drs. Morris and Joe Brook were company doctors for the Potash Company of America. PCA was drilling a new mine near Saskatoon when, on a July day in 1957, the brothers were summoned to a cave-in at the mine. The victims were brought to the surface and most were not in bad condition. However, one was covered with dirt and vomit and was not breathing. Dr. Morris immediately applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. After he had successfully resuscitated the victim he expressed a thought aloud: "There must be a better way..."

Aware of the need, he set to work developing a new rescue-breathing device. In addition to being a general practitioner and surgeon, Dr. Brook was also a clinical instructor at the College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan. Numerous airway prototypes were experimented with at the college and in Saskatoon hospitals - one improved model followed another. Soon an airway device had been developed that was effective, inexpensive, simple to clean and easy to use even after a brief demonstration. The first models were made locally in Saskatoon and distributed to all the Potash Company of America miners and clipped onto their helmets. Training aids for group instruction were developed including a wooden air passage demonstrator, a plastic training manikin and a documentary film "That They May Live".

By 1959 patents for The Brook Airway had been filed in Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, Russia, the United States and Canada. The airways were manufactured by Woodbridge Plastics in Toronto and later manufactured in England. The G. H. Wood Corporation distributed tens of thousands of the airways worldwide. Undoubtedly the Brook Airway helped save many lives. Doctor Morris Brook died in Saskatoon in 1967.

Copyright 2011 Peter Adsten Column

A 1966 advertisement for the Brook Airway.