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Former hospital employee donates homemade surgical masks

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 20, 2020

 Katie Peters, a seamstress and former nurse aide, drops off surgical masks that she made to staff at the pharmacy at the Gratiot Avenue and 12 Mile Road Walmart in Roseville. She has been making extra masks to combat a shortage and is donating masks to local hospitals and medical personnel.

Katie Peters, a seamstress and former nurse aide, drops off surgical masks that she made to staff at the pharmacy at the Gratiot Avenue and 12 Mile Road Walmart in Roseville. She has been making extra masks to combat a shortage and is donating masks to local hospitals and medical personnel.

Photo provided by Katie Peters

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ROSEVILLE — The COVID-19 virus has made wearing surgical masks in public a common sight. However, with so many people wearing them, many medical facilities are running short, and the medical professionals who need them most can’t get them.

Katie Peters, of Roseville, is a former rehabilitation nurse aide at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township. She quit to start her own seamstress business, but after cases of the virus began appearing in Michigan, she started making masks to donate to her old workplace.

“I’ve made 30 fabric face masks, and I’m bringing them up there (on March 22),” said Peters. “I worked at Henry Ford hospitals for several years and made it through the swine flu before I started my own business as a seamstress. My oldest son is 23 years old, and he now works in the unit next to where I used to, so I have a strong connection to the hospital.”

Her son, Mark Hamilton Jr., an orthopedic nurse aide, told her that the shortage of masks was very real and hospitals such as his were washing and reusing masks. Peters stepped in and put her skills to use.

“They were reusing their face masks, so I made some new ones out of a cotton fabric with two layers and connected some elastic ear straps on them,” she said. “I put them in little plastic bags so everything stays sterile. They’re washable, so they can be washed and reused.”

Peters said the shortage of masks is something totally unnecessary because people who don’t need the masks are hoarding them, while medical professionals who come in contact with infected and potentially infected people every day can’t get any.

“Everybody is panic-buying masks the same way they are (with) toilet paper or hand sanitizer,” she explained. “It’s not necessary, because you have to come in direct contact with someone who has the virus to get sick, so if all you’re doing is going to the grocery store, you won’t be (infected). The average person would have to be more concerned about washing their hands or washing off the handles of a grocery cart or things like that. Hospital staff actually interact with those who are ill, and the people who come in contact with them are those who are in most need of the masks. Hospital staff need to be protected, and they can’t get them.”

Peters sews and assembles the masks.

“They are a little more tricky to make than I thought,” she remarked. “The instructions are easy, but you have to make sure you’re doing it right so you know the wearer will be safe.”

She is encouraging others with sewing skills to consider also chipping in and using their skills to help the medical community during the crisis.

“I got the materials at Walmart — they have the fabric for sale there. I got a big package of elastic straps for $4. It took a while to make them, but they’re not expensive,” said Peters. “I’m also thinking about making a few and taking them up to the cashiers at Walmart.”

The Henry Ford Health System issued a press release stating that it is monitoring the shortage of supplies, such as masks, and doing everything possible to ensure its staff members are getting what they need to properly perform their jobs.

“We are monitoring our supply inventories closely — including masks, gowns, face shields, wipes and other products — to keep our patients and team members safe,” the press release states. “Like all health systems, our concerns will increase as the number of positive cases arise. We are in constant communication with our suppliers and continue to take measures to extend the life of our supplies.”

Peters said that any hospital personnel can reach out to her for a free mask.

“Hospital staff are putting themselves at risk, and they need some help,” she said. “Any hospital worker can reach out to me for a mask. They can call me at (586) 533-7886.”

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