“True emergencies are not convenient,” says Will Connolly, RN. “They do not happen where or when you want them to.”

man in hospital hallway leaning over gurney with tubes lying in it

Will Connolly, RN with an early Rescue Vac prototype at Maine Medical Center

sketch of the rescue vac

For 13 years, Will has triaged and cared for countless patients working as a trauma nurse in the Maine Medical Center emergency department. In 2016, Will was transporting a herniating brain bleed patient from the ED to another unit when the patient suddenly started to vomit, compromising the patient’s airway. In the middle of the night and in between care units, Will’s only option was to race down the hallway to the care area in time to treat the patient.

This close call inspired Will to start designing the Rescue Vac, a portable suction device for healthcare professionals, teachers and even parents. Rescue Vac is a compact, cost-effective solution to maintain a patient or bystander’s airway in situations where more sophisticated suction devices are not easily accessible. The device is designed to be light and fold in half to allow for easy carrying and use.

Will began refining his idea for Rescue Vac in the Fall 2020 MaineHealth Innovation Cohort, where he was introduced to engineers at the University of Southern Maine’s Maker Innovation Studio (MIST). Together they developed his latest working prototype. Will received $20,000 from the MaineHealth Innovation Ignite Fund to create a more advanced prototype for the next phase of customer discovery.

“Its strength is really in its simplicity — small enough for anyone to carry and cheap enough for everyone to own.”

— Will Connolly, RN
ED Clinical Nurse
Maine Medical Center

a man demonstrating the rescue vac on a training dummy

Will Connolly demonstrating an early Rescue Vac prototype on a simulation manikin

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Rescue Vac is its timeliness, as healthcare facilities today are operating at maximum capacity with staffing

shortages. The present opioid epidemic is revealing increased overdoses in hospitals and public spaces across Maine, which can require the urgent need of clearing an airway. Rescue Vac aims to allow anyone to take heroic action in situations when every second counts.


Will, in collaboration with the MIST lab, is actively seeking an additional production partner to create an advanced, medical-grade prototype.


Will Connolly, RN
ED Clinical Nurse
Maine Medical Center
University of Southern Maine

Our Purpose

MaineHealth Innovation builds connections to drive diversity of thought, educates to produce creative problem-solvers and funds to accelerate ideas. By leveraging the ideas, insights and expertise of all care team members to develop novel solutions to our unmet care needs, we are working together so our communities are the healthiest in America.

illustration of a light bulb with circuitry in the center