Watkinson’s Science Department Chair Jean Kracke reflects, “In tough times, if I can do something, that helps me.”
It makes sense that during the COVID-19 crisis, Kracke’s response was one of action.
Her younger brother is the finance person at New York’s Columbia University Irving Medical Center who shared with her that the pandemic is crippling hospitals financially as elective surgery is a major source of income for hospitals. Kracke’s brother has 4 children and he has spent many days handing out masks to his hospital department heads. He has shared with her that there is no way to get enough protective gear to help the medical professionals who need it.
Kracke’s good friend is an obstetrics nurse who further overwhelmed Kracke’s thinking when she shared that symptomless patients are unknowingly exposing nurses.
Initially, this stark reality made Kracke, “..want to curl up on a couch.” Then her instinct to help kicked in.
She joined a Facebook group, called Sewing Facemasks for Farmington Valley, which has 875 members as of 4/1 and so far has donated 1255 facemasks.
Kracke’s hope multiplied when she learned that people are finding ways to reverse engineer N95 masks, which block 95% of particles from getting through. She says, “People are making them with 3D printers and then reverse engineering the front.”
Kracke uses the 3D printer at Watkinson all the time; this is when she kicked into action. “Because I know how to use the printer and we have the supplies at the school, I got to work.”
She connected with a technologist at Manchester Hospital who is asking people with 3D printers to print faceshields. She then joned a group of 3D tech people who are trying to get 20,000 faceshields to an area hospital group in the next 20 days. Kracke reports, “I can print two at a time and it takes 10 hours for the pair.”
Her contact at the local hospital is also awaiting approval from the CDC on a part that can be 3D printed that turns one ventilator to serve two people. Once that approval comes, Kracke expects to fabricate those as well.
“So far, I have printed 22 faceshield frames and I am about ¼ way through the filament material Watkinson had on hand. I expect I will run out of the 3D filament in the next week or so. Right now, filament is backordered.
If you have a 3D printer of any size or have access to filament, please contact Jean.