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“Louisville friends, our Healthcare Providers need our HELP!” That was the rally cry of Amy Bankston, a Louisville resident who, along with a handful of others, is balancing working from home, parenting and homeschooling with another important task: sewing masks for healthcare professionals.

As many Americans hear that healthcare workers are running out of crucial equipment, they are casting fear aside and opting, instead, to roll up their sleeves and be a part of a solution. “If you can sew and/or have 1/4” elastic, please message me and I will give you instructions on how to make these high-filtration masks designed by a team including a local surgeon and nurse practitioner,” Amy’s post continued.

Here is a mask that Amy created. Image: Facebook

Nashville realtor Deborah Vahle, who happens to have a degree in fashion design, is involving her daughters in the effort. What beautiful lesson in doing for others! Image: Deborah Vahle

Here, both of Deborah’s daughters work on creating masks to be donated. A message from Deborah: “To all the nurses, techs, doctors, janitors, and people on the frontlines in our healthcare system: You are true heroes. Your dedication is inspiring. I don’t think the world will ever be able to thank you enough.” Image: Deborah Vahle

Indeed, there’s a drastic shortage of PPE — personal protective equipment — and that includes masks. In an effort to fill the void, many sewing groups like Amy’s are popping up to create and deliver masks to hospitals and healthcare facilities. “I’m getting blown up on texts and PMs by friends who are healthcare professionals saying they don’t have PPE and are wanting to buy or get [the masks],” Amy shared with me by text.

While some may be curious as to how homemade PPE can be sanitary and meet stringent healthcare requirements (they are and they do), healthcare professionals are eagerly embracing the outreach and welcoming the homemade masks. “The masks are the biggest thing we see gone — I currently don’t have any [work-provided] masks,” shares Elliott Eddy, BSN, RN, CWOCN, a hospice nurse in Clarksville, TN, who has received homemade masks from a friend. “We are expecting a shipment this week, but for now we are borrowing, reusing, or drawing straws to see who can go see a patient because we only have one mask to use.”

With a mask shortage, patients can’t be seen and therefore, their health is at risk. But it goes both ways — without masks, healthcare workers’ health is just as much at risk. “Not having a PPE puts me on a firing squad, so to speak,” Elliott continues. “I have no protection against this virus or any diseases — we are still seeing TB patients, those with MRSA, CDIFF, etc. I have no way to protect myself, which makes me put my family at an increased risk for contracting the virus or being quarantined away from them if I become infected.”

So with the task of mask-making at hand — and many Americans confined to their homes — now seems like the perfect time to dust off the sewing machine and put those home ec skills to good use. Whether you join a formal group that is uniting in the cause or you simply want to make your own and deliver them to your local healthcare facility, here’s how you can get started. A handy mask pattern that meets the necessary requirements can be found HERE, and a YouTube tutorial can be found HERE. If you’re on Twitter, check out #millionmaskchallenge to see how others are getting involved, see the masks being created and to get the community vibe we all are longing for right now.

A few simple supplies are all that’s needed to create these life-saving pieces of equipment. Find a great tutorial on Instructables.com HERE. Image: Instructables.com

Here, Elliott Eddy models a homemade mask that was given to her by a friend. Image: Elliott Eddy

Here, a healthcare professional wears a mask made by Michelle Tapsell. Image: Michelle Tapsell

And lastly, if you DO want to be a part of group, here’s a great starting point to check out on Facebook. But be sure to check into local groups as well as I suspect lifelong friendships may be formed out of these grassroots initiatives — among those sewing the masks and those receiving and wearing them. “When I look down before putting on a mask that someone made for me, I see the stitching, the detail, the love,” Elliott says, “and to know someone made this mask because they care about us? I feel like Popeye eating his spinach!”

When you have made the masks and are ready to drop them off, Elliott suggests you consider emergency rooms, home health companies and hospice facilities. Happy sewing!

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