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East County Wednesday, Apr. 1, 2020 2 years ago

Mask motivation supports healthcare workers in Lakewood Ranch area

East County residents are on a mission to make a difference during coronavirus outbreak.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

If Gates Creek resident Michelle Clinton has a super power, it’s sewing.

She might not be able to save lives like nurses and doctors can, but she is able to put her college degree in apparel design and her seamstress skills to work by making protective face masks for health care workers and help keep them safe during the coronavirus outbreak.

After doing research and talking with friends in the health care industry, she created a fabric, washable mask modeled after the N95 mask preferred by health care providers.

“This is the kind — this N95 — that everybody wants,” Clinton said. “Everybody needs these masks. It’s such a

Gates Creek resident Michelle Clinton tries on the prototype for her N95-based mask she is making for local healthcare providers. Courtesy photo.

desperate situation.”

Clinton has taken masks to her doctor’s office, to nurses at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and to other health care providers. Through Facebook, she’s even getting requests for her masks to be sent to other states.

“The need is so great,” Clinton said.

She and other East County residents are working to help provide masks for health care professionals at a time when hospitals and health agencies are finding themselves short of personal protective equipment, including face masks and gowns. During a March 24 Manatee County Commission meeting, Manatee Health care System CEO Kevin DiLallo said hospitals are short on such equipment because they are using them at a higher rate while caring for COVID-19 and suspected COVID-19 patients.

Clinton’s desire to make protective masks was propelled by her friend, Kim Edmondson Renick, a nurse at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center. Edmondson Renick messaged her on Facebook, asking for help.

Clinton has created a mask pattern based on the N95 mask, which leaves no gaps on the side of the face, that is available online through her Facebook page. She even uploaded a video on how to make it. It does require advanced sewing skills.

Del Webb at Lakewood Ranch's Carrie Mueller is using a simple pattern to create masks for healthcare providers with Tidewell Hospice. She's coordinating with about 15 other sewers in Lakewood Ranch.

Other simpler sewing patterns also are available. Lakewood Ranch’s Carrie Mueller is using one provided to her by Tidewell Hospice to make masks for its workers. Normally, she would take her service dog to visit with patients at Tidewell Hospice, but such visits are currently prohibited. Mueller wanted to contribute, and Tidewell has asked for masks for its workers.

Mueller said she is coordinating with about 15 women to sew masks.

“It’s probably not the best prevention for a medical area, but it’s better than nothing,” Mueller said. “It’s incredible what people are coming up with. It is helping. Everyone wants to help. ”

Adam Nowicki, a technology teacher at Mona Jain Middle School in Lakewood Ranch, and Kim Brown, a digital arts teacher at the school, had both seen people online creating masks for health care workers.

Nowicki read an article on how he could use a 3D printer to make face shields, which look similar to welding masks, to further protect health care workers.

The two decided to partner on a project to make masks and face shields for health care workers in Lakewood Ranch. Nowicki’s daughter, Sophia, a seventh grader at Mona Jain Middle, joined the community service project.

“We said, ‘Hey, what if we kind of jumped in and did something,’ and then it led to ‘Well, why don’t we try to have our students do it as a community service project for our [Technology Student Association] chapter?’” Nowicki said.

Both Nowicki and Brown serve as advisers for Mona Jain’s TSA chapter.

Adam Nowicki received permission from the Mona Jain administration to use the school’s 3D printers for the

Mona Jain Middle School teacher Adam Nowicki is sewing and using a 3-D printer to make face shields and masks to donate. Courtesy photo.

project. With the printer, he was able to make 30 headbands for the face shields. Adam and Sophia Nowicki worked together to figure out the thickness of the shield and discovered the best option was to take a lamination sleeve and run it through a laminator with nothing in it. Then the pair would attach the shield to the mask.

To make the masks, they have been cutting fabric and sewing it together.

The biggest hurdle the group has faced is the lack of supplies, such as elastic, so they have had to be creative. Rather than using elastic as the object to put around people’s ears to secure the mask, Brown used hair ties.

“Combined with the shield and mask, we are able to provide them quite a bit of protection if they use both,” Brown said.

Reporter Liz Ramos contributed to this report.

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