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Ebola preparedness prompts teamwork, unlikely partnership

When manufacturers and suppliers of the safety equipment necessary to treat Ebola patients announced they would be judicious with where they send it to ensure its availability to those that need it, health systems across the U.S. were challenged to use critical thinking in their preparation and training plans.

As one of four hospitals — and the only children’s hospital — in Minnesota selected to care for Ebola patients, if necessary, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has been training while using a limited quantity of personal protective equipment (PPE) and powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) face shields to familiarize staff.

Members of the American Sewing Guild Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter work on training PAPRs at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights.
Members of the American Sewing Guild Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter work on training PAPRs at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights.

In the event of a real-life Ebola case, Children’s would be supplied with the necessary equipment by manufacturers. In the meantime, for training and simulation purposes, a cross-functional team at Children’s that included the executive team, Center for Professional Development and Practice (CPDP), Materials Management, Lab, Maintenance, Respiratory Therapy, Safety and Security, and members of the American Sewing Guild Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter launched an effort that enables staff to wear PAPRs that create a more ideal practice or simulation environment.

The idea for mocking up PAPRs for training originated from Karen Mathias, director of the Simulation Center. On Oct. 31, Roxanne Fernandes, chief nursing officer, and Lila Param, interim director for CPDP, traveled to Hancock Fabrics in Minnetonka to find material that would work for a training PAPR hood prototype. After talking with the store manager, they were given the contact information for the sewing guild.

On Nov. 3, Fernandes emailed members of the guild, which responded within 30 minutes that they were ready to help.

“When I saw it, I thought, ‘Ooh, this is one we need to follow up on really fast,’ ” Lori Clark, publicity chair and president-elect of the Minneapolis/St. Paul chapter, said. “We have people in the guild who sew everything.”

Clark and guild president Mary Anderson visited Children’s – St. Paul that afternoon to see the real PAPRs and discuss a plan for creating 25 training hoods.

On Nov. 4, they, along with member and newsletter editor Emily Schroeder Orvik, enlisted nearly a dozen volunteers and set up sewing shop at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, where the guild held its annual meeting and workshop earlier this year.

“In general, community service is one of the major tenets of our organization,” Anderson said. “To me, this jumped out because my grandson had an emergency appendectomy at Children’s.”

“The fact that we can help Children’s prepare for something I hope they never have to face is a really good feeling,” Clark, whose daughter-in-law coincidentally is a pediatric nurse at another Minnesota hospital, said. “This is the most-unique request we’ve had.”

Before any sewing could be done, though, materials had to be gathered and made.

Paul Benassi, director of facilities, picked up DuPont Tyvek HomeWrap from Menards to be used as the main material for the training hoods, while Biomed engineering manager John Hendricks made 25 wooden blocks that match the weight of the air circulator worn on the belt of PPE to ensure as close-to-real-life training experience as possible.

An initial training hood was made out of the Tyvek wrap, but the material turned out to be too stiff and noisy. After making modifications to the pattern and a trip to Rochford Supply in Brooklyn Park, the group found a non-woven fabric that more closely mimics the material used for the real PAPRs.

The guild completed construction of the 25 hoods by its Nov. 10 goal.

Jimmy Bellamy