Friday, April 17, 2020

When a Pandemic Push Comes to Shove

Melinda Palacio

Palacio sisters
Aided by Covid-19, push came to shove and I taught myself how use a sewing machine and sew masks. For the past decade or so, my husband’s mother’s sewing machine has been collecting dust. Steve threatened to donate the machine, but I promised to take up sewing sometime in the future. The Singer 603 is easy to forget. The jet age machine is built into a table and I threw a table cloth on it and have been using it as an end table. Since the future arrived with world pandemic (see my last blog  post), my sewing goals commenced. 

You Tube Videos Offer Tutorials on How to Sew Masks
A late phone call from my sister prompted this sudden urge to add another hobby to my growing list of interests. She’s a nurse at an emergency department in Downey. Last week, I could hear the despair in her voice, a tough job brings tough moments, especially when working the frontlines of Covid-19. She and fellow hospital workers do not have enough personal protection equipment (PPE). They’ve come up with  a make-shift solution of reusing contaminated N-95 masks, as well as other slow patch jobs, such as doling out face shield only to certain personnel who come into contact with confirmed infected patients. The uncertainty of possible contamination weighs heavily on my sister. Hospital administrators rework the day's playbook and change the rules on who gets the coveted N95 masks and face shields. When my sister phoned, she was on her way to Walmart to secure fabric and materials to make her own masks so she could wear outside of the hospital and possible over her N-95  mask. She was exhausted but determined. Later, I found out she was not able to find any fabric. Between work and coming home to a restless six year old who needed attention, not to mention his school lessons and food, there was little energy left for her to sew masks. Since I couldn’t help her with all her home chores, I decided I would start making masks. 

I didn't have any fabric. I cut up a table cloth to make my prototype. 
Success! I can practice on real fabric now. 

I found working on an old sewing machine to be more challenging than I ever anticipated. The bobbin is not my friend and each tie I start a new stitch, the needle unthreads itself. While I’m slowly learning how to make face masks, I’m grateful for friends who have stepped in to send masks to my sister. I've only made a few so far, but I trust with much patience, I will get faster and learn how to better troubleshoot the machine. 

My sister, left, manages to smile for the camera. 

My sister has always been a pillar of stability and strength. I pray for her everlasting strength and courage. I realize that taking care of patients during a pandemic is testing her metal. While the world is ordered to stay home and practice social distancing and take up new hobbies, she is the one who must care for folks who get sick and to treat the Covid-19 pandemic head on. While people at home are returning to cooking, baking, and gardening, she sometimes only has a few minutes to grab something to eat from a vending machine because her breaks often do not coincide with the cafeteria’s open hours. As a single mom, she cannot isolate herself from her young son,  She worries about getting the virus and bringing it home, even though she is super careful. The third world conditions that our medical personnel must deal with is outrageous. Yet she and the rest of the hospital workers in Downey, California, show up and do their jobs with or without PPE. I asked her what keeps her going and she pointed to her coworkers:

The Covid-19 testing team

“What makes me get through a tough day in the ER is the feeling of comradery in our department. We are truly all in it together. We share the same fear, fatigue, anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, moments of hopelessness, sparks of hope when more masks and gowns arrive and exchanges of warm smiles behind foggy goggles because we understand each other. We share the same altruistic compassionate, empathetic, twisted, fearless, adrenaline, humorous, assertive, driven personality that has helped us stay afloat during this pandemic. If nothing else, we have each other. We have each other’s backs. God’s grace, of course, allows us to survive and be able to help others despite our fears.”

10 Easy Ways You Can Help Fight the Pandemic 

1. Stay Home
2. Wash your hands
3.  Stand six feet away from another person. 
4. Wear a mask if you have to go out.
5. Thank our essential workers. 
6. If you are crafty, sew masks. We are in this for a long haul.
7. Learn a new skill.
8. Write letters to loved ones.
9. Call friends on the phone
10. Read a book. 


msedano said...

Emily, be healthy, be immune mujer!

Chuck said...

Both sisters are doing something very very important. Thank you so much.