BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- A lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) at local hospitals is an issue we continue to follow. Recently we've heard from a former ER doctor as well as several nurses from St. Joseph's Hospital who all said lack of PPE is putting lives at risk, both patients and healthcare providers.
There now seems to be a little relief coming their way, as local companies big and small do their part to help.
"This is one of those crazy stories that someday we'll all look back on and tell," says Eric Hayes, chief marketing officer of Superfeet.
It's been an eventful few weeks for the company that normally specializes in shoe inserts. Making shoes more comfortable has been put on the back-burner, like so many of our jobs during this time.
But Superfeet's employees didn't just want to sit back and watch the crisis unfold.
"We have employees who would love to help, so we asked how can we do this as a company? And what we heard back right away was 'based on your guys unique ability with 3-D printing and the ability to gather fabric, what we could really use are PAPR hoods."
Incredibly, within a matter of days, Superfeet's engineers began making PAPR hoods, a certain kind of PPE healthcare workers are using to stay safe.
"By providing healthcare professionals with this kind of PPE, we're able to keep them in the fight."
The company is set to make 30,000 PAPR hoods and distribute them to local hospitals, including to St. Joseph's in Bellingham.
"This particular product is gonna save a lot of people's lives."
St. Joseph's hospital received another big PPE donation last night. The product was a bit more simplistic than PAPR hoods, but essential none the less, as hospitals continue to make it clear: they need all the masks they can get.
"It struck my heart right away because I'm a healthcare professional, I see patients in the clinic and my husband is an ICU doctor," says Ming-Ming Tung Edelman.
When Ming-Ming isn't working as a pharmacist, she's running her non-profit, Refugee Artisan Initiative, which provides work for immigrant women, often sewing, making home-goods or jewelry.
Ming-Ming employs seven women who recently came to America. Now their time is dedicated to the cause of improving conditions with PPE, sewing masks they then donate.
"Literally within 24 hours we made 800 mask among seven ladies. Their skill set has been put towards a true purpose."
To date, they've made over 1,200 masks using donations for supplies through a gofundme page. They're now starting to make face shields, working with healthcare workers who've been on the front-lines of battling Ebola, and are helping Ming-Ming and her employees design the most effective PPE.
Their homemade masks have been distributed by talk show radio hosts turned podcasters Ron Upshaw and Don O'Neill, who began getting requests from healthcare workers at various local hospitals desperate for PPE.
Everyone we interviewed for this story told us, the requests for supplies and help are overflowing. It's very clear: our local hospitals need our help.
Eric Hayes of Superfeet asks the community to accept this challenge:
"Think about what you can do as individuals and a business to be able to give back and participate, some people are in a position to do that, others aren't, but if you are-think-think outside the box. Think about what your expertise is and try to apply it to the problem."