Community Shows Support Through Facemask Donations to the Purdue Veterinary Hospital

Friday, May 1, 2020

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Mary Jayne and Claire take a selfie wearing facemasks
Mary Jayne Downey, business manager in the Purdue Veterinary Hospital, and her daughter, Claire, model DIY face covering options with a dog print face mask made by Mary Jayne’s sister and a bandana fashioned into a face covering with hair ties.

The Purdue Veterinary Medicine family continues to show its grit and compassion for one another in a variety of ways during these uncertain times. The power of teamwork has never been more present, from the transition to online classes and working remotely, to lending a hand with COVID-19 testing in the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, and the quick transformation of hospital procedures in order to create a safer environment for staff and clients.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued safety guidelines on the use of cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Purdue Veterinary Hospital Director Ellen Lowery sent out a request to the PVM family seeking donations of cloth facemasks to use in the hospital. “These will not be a replacement for appropriate PPE or surgical masks. However, there is the recognition that in situations where physical distancing of six feet is not always possible, such as with patient care, the use of cloth masks helps protect individuals around the mask wearer,” said Dr. Lowery.

Dr. Fulkerson wears a white coat and face mask as he sits giving a thumbs up
Dr. Chris Fulkerson gives a thumbs up as he wears a mask gifted by a client of the Medical Oncology Service as a thank you for taking such good care of their patients.

The hospital administration office strategically placed donation bins around Lynn Hall to accommodate in-house staff donations in addition to drop-off bins near the Small Animal Hospital and Large Animal Hospital parking areas to accommodate client donations. The hospital’s Infection Control Committee, chaired by Dr. Lynn Guptill, associate professor of small animal internal medicine, and Dana Altman, infection control specialist, also initiated a protocol by which all masks received would be funneled through Central Supply’s laundering service before being circulated to employees to use within the hospital.  Hospital team members have the option to reuse a mask after cleaning it at home or they can return used masks to Central Supply for re-laundering. The timespan for the use of a reusable facemask is three hours, so there is a high need to maintain a sufficient supply. The response from the Purdue community following Dr. Lowery’s request has been overwhelming.

Dr. Lowery's mom sits in front of her sewing machine at work
Dr. Ellen Lowery’s mom lends a hand as she sews facemasks for hospital staff.

Local sewing organizations have been instrumental in replenishing the stock of facemasks. Organizations such as the Valparaiso Sewing Group of White County, Making Masks in White County, and the Greater West Lafayette Sewing Group, to name a few, have collectively contributed over 200 masks. Susie May, the mother of a graduate from the Class of 1996, has included a note of encouragement with each batch of 70 masks her group has donated. She wrote, “… with gratitude for my daughter’s excellent education. Thank you – stay safe.” Another client who remembered the excellent service both she and her beloved pet received years ago donated masks to the Oncology team.

Many others have donated materials as well to the staff-organized DIY facemask campaign. Purdue’s Department of Human Resources, in collaboration with Purdue Student Government, donated 300 bandanas to be used as facemasks. Friends of faculty and staff have donated as well with donations coming in from all across the country. “It is the displays of kindness from the community that gives our staff, faculty, interns, residents, technicians, and students the extra boost to keep going,” Dr. Lowery said. “The community’s support states loud and clear that we are not alone, and we are appreciated. Together we are going to get through this pandemic crisis.”

Purdue themed facemasks displayed next to a thank you card
Emalese Adams, wife of Professor of Large Animal Surgery Steve Adams, has sewed and donated almost 90 unique homemade facemasks, including these Boilermaker themed masks.

At last count, the hospital has received nearly 1,350 masks, and that does not include additional donations that were not deposited in the collection bin, but instead were mailed in anonymously. Dr. Lowery commented, “We are appreciative of our clients for entrusting the veterinary hospital to service their animals. We are thankful for the dedicated team of professionals who have braved the tumultuous onslaught of this pandemic virus to serve the Purdue Veterinary Hospital, and I am grateful to the community for sharing their support whether by giving donations or sending a note of thanks or encouragement.” 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the hospital remains committed to the health and safety of its staff and clients. Facemask donations are still being accepted. Faculty, staff, and students who are working on campus can find donation bins in Lynn Hall near the hospital reception areas, loading dock, Continuum Café area, and the hospital administration office. Additionally, pink drop-off bins are located near the client parking areas outside both the Small and Large Animal Hospitals.

Writer(s): Terri Donald and Allison Carey |

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