By SHELLEY TOPP
Christchurch specialist anaesthetist John Hyndman, who lives in Clarkville, has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the New Year Honours.
Dr Hyndman has developed a compact, low cost, anaesthetic machine called the HYVAN with biomedical engineer Ivan Batistich who was also made a MNZM. Mr Batistich is from Auckland but now lives in Bangkok.
Dr Hyndman said he was surprised to receive the honour.
“I am not particularly comfortable in the limelight.”
He did not expect an honour for his work and personally felt there were far more deserving people, but it was “gratefully received”.
He was particularly pleased Mr Batistich had been honoured. “Ivan is an unusually gifted man. He’s a bit like Burt Munro. He just works away and comes up with something extraordinary.”
In February last year the duo won the New Zealand “Innovator of the Year Award” for their work on the HYVAN. A few months later they were in Hong Kong to receive the World Innovators of the Year award at the World Congress of Anaesthesiologists.
Dr Hyndman said he recognised the need for an easy-to-use, portable machine like the HYVAN while doing volunteer work as an anaesthetist in under-developed countries where outdated, unwanted anaesthetic equipment had been donated by hospitals from wealthier countries.
“I was constantly frustrated by the equipment we had to use.
“It was unreliable and unsafe to use. It was really a tribute to the local anaesthetists that they were able to use this equipment at all,” he said.
“It struck me at the time that what was really needed was a simple anaesthetic machine that was ultra-reliable and safe to use.
“It also had to be affordable because these countries often didn’t have a lot of money at their disposal, and it had to be easily maintained and serviced in the local hospital workshops by the local technicians,” he said.
Developing the HYVAN had been a long, expensive, process of trial and error with four prototypes along the way, Dr Hyndman said. He estimates they have spent 12-13 years on the project and $300,000 of their own money so far.
But now, after many modifications and extensive trials, the small, innovative, low-maintenance, portable machine which only weighs 15kg, and has the potential to save many lives worldwide, is expected to be ready to market in six weeks, once Europe’s CE quality mark has been confirmed. The partners hope it will prove popular, and initial interest in the HYVAN suggests it will be. They are also hoping for a return on their huge financial investment in the project but have no expectation of rich rewards.
The altruistic pair simply want the HYVAN to fulfil the purpose they designed it for, to save lives, especially in poorer countries where hospitals cannot afford the complex, expensive anaesthetic machines that Dr Hyndman uses in his Christchurch anaesthesia practice.
He likens the machines he uses there to finely tuned Lamborghinis or Ferraris.
The HYVAN will be made in an ISO (international standards organisation) certified company in Christchurch.
The partners were offered the chance to have the HYVAN made far more cheaply in India but decided not to because they want to maintain quality control of the HYVAN manufacturing process and as proud New Zealanders the “Made in New Zealand” label is important to them.