Given the rapid pace of medical advancement over the past century, Outliers is pretty sure more than a few inventions of bygone eras are collecting dust inside junk closets. Joel Nobel's medical emergency crash cart, or MAX, has met no such fate, however. The cart was recently donated by the ECRI Institute, a comparative-effectiveness organization founded by Nobel, to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It will be displayed in the museum's division of medicine and science, which has a historical collection of cardiology and emergency-medicine objects.
Nobel, a surgeon and inventor, designed and patented MAX in 1965 while he was still a resident at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Hospital. The invention revolutionized emergency patient care, and, for a little perspective, it hit the market three years before Nobel founded the ECRI Institute and 11 years before the passage of the Medical Device Amendments Act of 1976, which gave the Food and Drug Administration power to regulate the use of medical devices. Life magazine profiled the invention in a 1966 four-page photo feature called “MAX the Lifesaver.”
Nobel created MAX to speed the delivery of life-saving emergency cardiopulmonary care to patients. The cart allowed hospitals to keep all of the necessary equipment and medication on a portable storage unit that could be wheeled to the patient. The Smithsonian's cart measures 34 inches tall and 74 inches long when fully extended. It's outfitted with medical equipment and drugs used in the 1960s and '70s, including a pneumatic cardiac compressor, electrocardiograph, respirator, pacemaker and intubation gear. The then-cutting-edge technology also features a voice recorder, which would begin taping the moment the cart was moved. The tape could later be played back to facilitate event analysis and systems improvements.