Susan Woodworth retired to Oregon City after being a registered nurse for more than 40 years in order to pursue a second career making whimsical painted birdhouses and managing the Three Rivers Artist Guild gallery in the Singer Hill Café.
But with the café/gallery closed due to COVID-19, Woodworth threw herself back into fray as Oregon's coordinator for Sewingforlives.com, which matches health care providers and facilities with volunteers sewing washable fabric masks.
"This is a free-of-charge service, since the majority of seamstresses hoard fabric," Woodworth said. "We buy on speculation of future needs unknown. Now there is a known need for fabric masks to help protect the minimal amount of N95 masks given to health care workers."
Sewn mask covers currently being made by tens of thousands of volunteers nationwide are not meant to replace the N95s, which are the only type of mask that effectively protects people from contracting viruses from others. However, health care workers are wearing these fabric "Masks of Courage" over their N95s in order to keep them more intact and usable for the duration of use.
Woodworth said seeing news flashes of overwhelmed ERs and ICU units packed with patients on ventilators stirred her yearnings to be in the midst of it all, coronavirus or not, to help get patients intubated, get labs done, insert IV lines, draw blood and coordinate care from the other health disciplines.
"I can feel and remember the pace like an adrenaline junky, (but) I don't have the skills for hospital work any longer," she said. "I am 66, healthy, active, busy with some home art business and do feel very guilty for not asking to reactivate my RN license."
After deciding against reentering the hospital environment, Woodworth turned her time and skills to helping "home warriors" make replacement masks. She says she can take pride in seeing her "army of seamstresses" cutting, sewing and shipping off hundreds of fabric masks daily. These volunteers don't care whether the health care workers throw away their fabric masks after just one shift, even though the fabric might be used, washed, ironed and used for days.
"The unselfish giving of these women who have hoarded fabric, bought fabric on future project speculation or just swooned over colors — these women without a blink of an eye dive into those precious stashes," Woodworth said.
Volunteers willing to sew masks are needed across the nation and are coordinating their efforts at Sewingforlives.com.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.