After listening to his wife, an internal medicine physician, and other family and friends working in healthcare talk about the desperate need for personal protective equipment (PPE) gripping hospitals across the country, Eric Cha of West Linn realized he could help.
On March 18, her husband Eric, an engineer and computer programer, had the idea to start creating protective face shields for medical workers on his own, according to his wife, Stephanie Cha. The Chas have lived in West Linn for about 15years and have two kids who attend West Linn High School.
Unlike the typical fabric facemasks medical workers wear, the face shields cover the entire face, protecting vulnerable spots for disease spread like the eyes.
With the CNC (for computer-controlled cutting) machine he uses for work, Eric Cha began cutting plastic into the face shields and within a few days had prototyped the design. Since then, the Chas have developed a small network of contributors and made over 310 face shields, though they have orders for 580, Stephanie Cha said.
Stephanie Cha said that a friend of a friend connected her and Eric with 3-D Systems in Wilsonville, and that the company is now using its own resources to cut the polycarbonate for the visor part of the shields.
She said Tap Plastics, Precision Plastics and Laird Plastics have also helped them source materials.
Stephanie Cha described the shields as a visor made of clear polycarbonate with a frame made of high density polyethylene, another durable plastic. They also have elastic straps and foam padding, which rests the visor on the wearer's forehead.
Stephanie Cha said she ordered elastic for the straps, but, with shipping backed up, also put out a call through Nextdoor for neighbors to donate whatever elastic they had.
"Mounds of elastic showed up at our doorstep within 24 hours," she said. "This has really reminded me what a wonderful community we have, because everybody wants to help."
According to Stephanie Cha, they've recruited a friend to sew the elastic into loops to be attached to the face shields. Once they have all the parts, she and her family put together kits with the pieces for about 20 face shields and take them to friends and family for help assembling the shields.
Stephanie Cha said she was initially reluctant when Eric brought up the idea because she wasn't sure if they could handle it but soon realized it was an opportunity for her family to make a difference.
"Here we are a week later and this thing has exploded — in a good way, but kind of a crazy way at the same time," she said.
Stephanie Cha has reached out to hospitals — including Providence, which she works for — but so far they seem leery of accepting PPE from groups they're not familiar with.
She said instead, individual or small groups of doctors and nurses are asking them for shields. For many healthcare workers it was becoming clear that their employers may not be able to provide the necessary protective equipment, she said.
"It means the world to me (that people are helping)," Stephanie Cha said. "As healthcare providers, that is what we have trained to do. We are willing to sacrifice for the wellbeing of our patients but it really feels good to know that the community supports us and is willing to give so we can do our job."
To order face sheilds or donate to the Cha's work, visit https://cleverlittlemaker.com/.
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