Masks and Meals: Esperanza Supports Healthcare Workers

Medical residents at Banner University Medical Center wear the masks. Cordel Fuher, left, Ian Welsh, right.

COVID-19 may have us walled off these days, but we’re not helpless.

Esperanza’s people are providing help and encouragement to healthcare providers who are on the front lines of the pandemic in Phoenix at Banner University Medical Center and the Veterans Administration Hospital.

One group is sewing surgical masks for doctors and nurses made from medical-grade fabric that is nearly as effective as the scarce N95 masks. They are also sewing simple cotton masks for healthcare staff.

Another group prepares homemade lunches for the medical residents and staff at the two facilities.

Do you want to help? If so, plenty of meaningful work awaits.


Protection for our healthcare professionals

Jayne and Todd Peterson

Dr. Jayne Peterson is Associate Program Director for Ambulatory Medicine in the Internal Medicine residency program and at the Internal Medicine Clinic at Banner University Medical Center. She was reading her email one day and discovered that the University of Florida had found a way to make highly effective masks from the Halyard H600 medical fabric that is used to wrap sterile surgical trays.

“The innovative masks use Halyard H600 two-ply spun polypropylene that is thought to be superior to the common surgical mask in its ability to block aerosols and droplets, including water, bacteria and other particles,” she read.

Dr. Todd Peterson, anesthesiologist, is in operating rooms and could collect this material, which in normal times is thrown away. Could this be a ready source of excellent quality masks?

Pam Yount and Liz Farquhar downloaded the pattern and started sewing. Doris Dorwart and Jane Gisselquist soon joined. So far, the sewing team has delivered some 75 masks to Jayne, who has distributed them to medical residents and other front line staff at the two hospitals.

Jayne reports that the masks are in high demand.

“Masks are hard to come by right now, and we’ve all heard stories about healthcare workers who have had to reuse the same mask for multiple days in a row,” said Ian Welsh, M.D. “Homemade masks are incredibly helpful to try to slow the spread of this virus, especially when well-constructed like these.”

The doctors say that it’s encouraging to know that the community is thinking about them and trying to help. “It has been amazing to have this level of community support and the masks are so helpful at a time when the supply is so limited,” added Cordel Fuher, M.D.

We currently have a limited supply if this high tech fabric, but the Petersons are looking for another source.

Pam Yount at her sewing machine

But, Jayne says that masks made from cotton fabric are also welcome, for staff who are not involved in direct patient care but nevertheless work in a high risk environment. You may use this pattern to make a simple pleated mask from cotton.

Pam says sewing masks makes her feel like she’s doing something useful for those in health care who are doing essential work, in many cases without proper protection.

“With these masks they can have some peace of mind,” she said. “I wanted to do something during this time of crisis and since I am able to sew this seemed like a good fit. In the beginning the pattern was a bit difficult, but now it is easy. When I get bored I remember why I’m doing this project. If I was still working in health care I’d certainly want some kind of protection.”

To help contact Pam at [email protected].


Caring for the Caregivers: Homemade lunches 

Medical staff at Banner University Medical Center enjoy lunch

Hours are long and stress is high for the medical residents and other staff during this crisis. Jayne says that many cannot get away for a break and good food. At the VA hospital staff have very limited options, so most bring a brown bag or try to find a few minutes to go out. They long for home-cooked food.

So, Liz Farquhar organized some of Esperanza’s cooks, who are now providing homemade lunches to the hospitals once a week. The rules are simple: make it tasty and make it yourself! Team A is cooking for the VA Hospital staff, about 15-20 people. Team B is cooking for the Banner personnel, about 25-30 people. The teams maintain social distancing by dropping off food at the church kitchen on Monday afternoons. Jayne picks it up on her way to work on Tuesday.

“I’ve told the teams that these lunches are a gift of love — we are filling hearts as much as we are filling bellies,” Liz said.

The response has been enthusiastic. One staffer this week wrote: “Your church members are absolutely AMAZING!!! Definitely the Hands and Feet of Jesus. Praying for safety and protection over each one of them!”

If you are interested in helping with meals, please email Liz at [email protected]. We can always use cooks, but if you don’t cook you could help with supplies, including paper plates, plastic cutlery, napkins, sandwich bags, and Ziplock or Glad containers (single serving size). Let Liz know what you are donating and drop it off at the church kitchen on Mondays from 2-6 p.m.