I am proud to know another such proactive, ingenious woman in particular. This woman happens to be my sister. A cautious and creative person by nature, she took very seriously the threat of the virus as word came of its spread across the globe. With the rapidly increasing numbers of cases, she also paid attention to the shortages of personal protection equipment (PPE), as did the team members at HeCares, and she thought, “what can I do to help protect my family and friends?” She went on-line and researched what the best, re-usable, filter equipment is out there. She discovered that there is a company making carbon fiber material that is effective against dust, odors, hazardous fumes, particulate matter, molds, bacteria, and viruses! They have tested it in the UK and it has been shown to be more effective than the N95 paper masks. This material can be sewn to other fabrics. It can be washed daily and is reusable for up to 5 years! A seamstress by trade, she pulled out her bolts of material, her sewing machine, and ordered a sheet of this carbon fiber. Having also worked in construction, she is very familiar with the N95 paper masks and knows how scratchy and uncomfortable they are, not to mention just plain ugly. So, she has been making masks! The ones she is making are more effective, more comfortable and much more attractive than the other masks. Her plan: protect my loved ones. But it does not stop there.
As I walk through the grocery store, I see the majority of the people there not wearing masks. Well, that is a matter of choice (in this country), which puts not only them in danger but also all of the people around them. I feel particularly concerned for the cashiers and clerks though. They are coming into contact with every person who goes through the store. They are literally risking their own lives to keep the essential parts of our economy running. Unlike the doctors, nurses, and other medical staff who know they are coming into contact with people infected with the coronavirus, these people have no idea if and when they may be exposed. Already tens of thousands of Americans are suffering from COVID-19. The major problem we are facing right now is that we have one group of people pleading for more materials (medical workers), and the other group barely knows they need them (public at large), however neither group has much access to good PPE at the moment. So, what can we do? We can use this time of sheltering-at-home to help those who are out there being exposed!
My sister is a hero doing just that. She, despite living on very limited resources, bought this top of the line material and is making high quality, reusable masks! She already sent some to our parents, who are in the high-risk demographic, and to her siblings. Now she is making them available to the public. She has already spoken with the clerks at her local health food store and has orders from several of them for her masks. She would also like to make them available to medical workers and is moving toward doing just that. Our aunt, a medical doctor and director of medicine for several hospitals in CA, also wants to try these masks. After reading online of doctors pleading for any assistance in personal protective equipment, I know now what I must do. I will put aside my acupuncture needles for the moment and pick up a sewing needle! I happen to have a sewing machine and I am ordering the same carbon fiber filters and cotton covering materials and having my sister teach me how to make masks, which I will be donating to hospitals in need.
And truly, this may go beyond the life span of the COVID-19. What if the medical professionals discover that they can have a new part of their wardrobe, like their scrubs, and have masks that they can wash and reuse instead of adding to the landfill? She may have just discovered one small way to decrease our medical waste for the long-lasting betterment of our planet. Necessity is the mother of invention. We all have to be on the team of saving the world! Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so. Let’s create something together!
Leia Sutton-Barnes, L. Ac. Lead Acupuncturist