Community Shows Support Through Facemask and PPE Donations to the Purdue Veterinary Hospital

Thursday, June 18, 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.  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, Dr. Ellen Lowery, Purdue Veterinary Hospital director, 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.

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.

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 given as well with donations coming in from all across the country.

In addition, the hospital received a donation of two dozen PPE gowns from Purdue University’s volunteer Boiler ‘Maker’ team.  The effort is led by Nathan Hartman, Purdue’s Dauch Family Professor of Advanced Manufacturing and head of the Department of Computer Graphics Technology, who also is co-executive director of the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center, located at Purdue. 

The gowns were made by a subgroup composed of faculty and staff from Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences and the Department of Theatre within Purdue’s Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance.  Principally, Joan Goetz, a laboratory technician for the textile and apparel laboratories in the Division of Consumer Science, and Theatre staff members Anthony “Tony” Sirk, costume shop manager, and Vince Lobello, scenic construction supervisor, carried out the project, as part of an effort to produce soft goods for health care workers to wear.

Nathan and Tami stand outside the Small Animal Hospital
Nathan Hartman, Purdue’s Dauch Family Professor of Advanced Manufacturing, practices social distancing while delivering a package of donated PPE gowns to the Purdue Veterinary Hospital, as Tami Lind, ICU technologist supervisor, shows how the Tyvek housing cover used to make the gowns can be worn as an effective medical PPE barrier.

The gowns were created from Tyvek, a synthetic, waterproof material that is very difficult to tear but can be easily cut with scissors.  Volunteers helped cut the material and sew the gowns, which, along with caps and foot covers, account for the most requests received by the Maker volunteer group since they began their efforts April 27 and responded to requests from 20 organizations and counties in Indiana.  Approximately 40 faculty and staff members have participated in the volunteer group.  Click here to view a news release about the project.

“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.”

At last count, the hospital has received over 2,000 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.”

Writer(s): Terri Donald and Allison Carey |

Category: Hospitals, Services

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