When There Is No PPE…

Michele Walsh – Alumni (’94,’97) South Asia

“We need you to come back to the hospital,” my boss said. I was half-way through a three-month language study burst, hoping to gain more proficiency before taking over as head doctor and hospital administrator when my boss retired in July. But coronavirus changed those plans. I returned to the hospital immediately, and we got to work trying to figure out PPE.  Masks weren’t available — at least not high quality ones. Forget N95 masks. Yet we were an OB hospital needing to protect our staff from getting or passing on the coronavirus. I joke that with God all things are possible, and here ALMOST all things are possible. 

We studied and learned that effective facemasks needed at least a 180 thread count — so some of our nurses counted the threads in one-inch fabric squares. Others stitched masks. We learned which elastic worked and which didn’t. We learned that face shields helped if masks weren’t medical grade. We found a roll of plastic sheeting, so constructed our own face shields from fabric, elastic, staples, and plastic sheeting. When the face shields fogged in the 120 degree weather, we discovered that a thin coating of shaving cream solved the problem. We learned the concentration of bleach available in the market and made our own disinfectant for door handles and surfaces. We made our own hand sanitizer and invented ways to keep soap from being stolen. We are grateful that coronavirus never came here in its severe form. (Only several staff members were severely sick and all recovered.) We are grateful for a return of supplies, but in that critical interim I was blessed to work with a resourceful team!

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