The rush for supplies, such as masks, face shields and hospital gowns, has caused a dire shortage across the country because of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. But several locals with a talent with needle and thread have been coming through as heroes.
Several groups and individuals have used their time in isolation to sew masks for medical workers and other personnel who may come in contact with others, even in this time of social distancing.
Lauren Williams has made more than 250 hand-sewn medical masks, according to CDC guidelines and patterns shared by hospitals and medical centers, over the past week. But they haven’t all been relegated locally, but have gone to help other medical situations as far away as New York and Texas.
“I’ve mailed to Dyersburg (Tennessee); Troy, New York; Gadsden, Alabama,” Williams said, adding that she even made 130 and mailed them to a hospital in Houston.
She initially provided masks to a pediatric clinic in Dyersburg and then was asked to make 50 for Jackson Purchase Medical Center. She posted her handiwork on a Facebook quilting list and got an immediate response.
“A person in New York reached out to me that there was a pediatric patient there and they couldn’t find any (masks) for him to go back and forth to the doctor and the mother was real distraught. I said I’ll send some to you,” Williams recalled. “Then from there, a nurse from Gadsden, Alabama, reached out that they didn’t have any.”
She said the need for health care professionals is alarming.
“It’s scary to think hospitals and health care workers are going without in this crucial time because the supply chain has been limited with people overbuying for whatever purpose and taking them out of the hands of people who need them,” Williams said. “It’s good in a time like this that people who can sew can step up and help.”
Church groups, like the Mayfield First United Methodist Church’s sewing ministry, and others are using their skills to address the need for such equipment. Cheyenne McMullen learned how to sew from her grandmother and said helping out at this time in history almost reflects a wartime effort.
“People were sent to factories and learned new jobs and learned to do new things; anything they could do to help out,” she said. “It’s kind of like what we’re doing now; people coming together and using skills we don’t normally use on a daily basis to help other people.”
McMullen, a Southern Illinois University music history major from Wingo, is using her spare time between online classes and lessons to piece together masks. She said her pace is about 10 a day with her straight-stitch sewing machine.
“It’s a little more of a longer process, but when they’re made they’re in good shape and ready to go out,” she said.
McMullen’s mother, Kara, is a school nurse at Wingo Elementary and told her about the need for masks. She started by making masks for employees there, then made additional ones for Mayfield Fire Department, where her father, Jason, serves along with being a flight paramedic.
“I thought that can’t be too terribly hard to make,” she said. “I searched through the Internet a little bit and found some patterns and got started. I’m stuck at home and there’s not much I can do, but that one thing is something I can do, so I might as well do it.”
McMullen is looking into making more to donate to Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Indiana, and another hospital’s radiology team.
Williams said the process has provided her with an added sense of purpose.
“It’s something I’ve got the materials for and it gives me some way to help with what I have on hand with the skills I have,” she said. “It gives me purpose and kind of gratification in knowing I can help in the crisis.”