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Stepping up in a time of crisis

For most of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our way of life. While Gov. Kate Brown’s Stay Home, Save Lives order is one way we can all help flatten the curve, several Moda Health employees have gone a step further to help protect their families, friends and healthcare workers from the coronavirus.

Alex Geske, a registered nurse care coordinator in Moda’s Healthcare Services Department, recently chose to return to OHSU’s neuro-ICU to care for patients and help protect them from the spread of virus.

Alex knows he’ll be making sacrifices while taking care of patients hospitalized with life-threatening neurological problems such as strokes and other brain injuries. At this time, he won’t be able to come in direct contact with his parents. Despite the risks, he’s grateful for the opportunity to help others.

“With all that is happening, you really can’t shy away from it,” he said. “I’m thankful for my manager (Renee Doan) at Moda who was super supportive in my decision. It’s great to have a support system like that.”

A number of other Moda employees are making protective masks to help others stay safe and healthy.

The Salem Health project

Carrie Townsend and Amy Kearns, who both work in Moda’s Healthcare Services Department, have collaborated to make over 90 masks for workers at Salem Health.

The opportunity came up when Amy heard that Salem Health was providing mask kits. The kits included all the fabric, instructions, and a how-to video for people to make masks at home. It was a natural fit for Amy, who has a few industrial sewing machines of her own, and Carrie, who also has multiple sewing machines, as well as a quilt studio in her backyard.

While they were both up for the challenge, Amy admits she had some initial reservations about making the masks.

“When I first saw the masks, I was a bit intimidated because they looked a little more complicated than what I’m able to do,” she said. “But the kit instructions made it a lot less intimidating than I originally thought. It actually turned out to be fairly easy. It was probably more time-consuming than anything because there’s so much cutting involved.”

Together, they made 90 of the 10,500 single-use masks collected to help Salem Health workers in Salem, Dallas and Woodburn for several weeks to come. Townsend, who has also made additional masks for colleagues, neighbors and family members in California, said it’s a good feeling to know you have skills that can help others.

“It’s such a joy to hear back from someone who didn’t ask for one,” she said. “When you gift them one, they are so grateful. It’s very rewarding.”

Townsend has since received a letter from Salem Health thanking them for their support in helping the community in the fight against COVID-19.

Reusable masks for the vulnerable

Darci Weber, who works in Moda’s Marketing Department, took it upon herself to sew 20 masks for family and friends.

After doing some research on the internet, she used recycled materials from her home to make reusable, triple-layered masks that form to their faces. For the outer portion of the masks, she used a waterproof, breathable sportwear jacket she had on hand. The inside is made with a dry-fit fabric.

“I did it to help friends and family who are in tough spots to get their own masks or who may be a bit more vulnerable,” she said. “It feels pretty gratifying to help folks who otherwise don’t have access to masks they need to stay safe.”

Along with the masks, she included Post It notes that told them the size of their masks, how to take care of them, and instructions on how to hand wash them with hot water and disinfectant after every use.

“When making them, I kept in mind that this may not be the last pandemic we’ll see in our lifetime, unfortunately,” she said.

Pay it forward

Cynthia Curran, who works in Moda’s Medical Claims Department, says she was raised in a family who believes in “paying it forward.” When the pandemic started, the first thing she thought was how she could help others. Sewing since the age of 10, Cynthia said she always has extra fabric handy. So, she decided to make masks.

“I thought about a couple of people I know with compromised immune systems, and older friends and family,” she said. “I wanted to do what I could to help them be safe.”

Her good deeds expanded after a bike trip to the post office. When a stranger said she liked the fabric of her mask, she decided to start carrying a couple every time she went out. That way, she could give them to anyone who might need them.

“It feels amazing,” she said. “I’m not charging anything. I just give them out and ask people to pay it forward. I’ve been thanked profusely, but I honestly feel like I get so much out of helping people. It’s a real win-win.”

To date, she estimates she’s made over 100 masks. With her sewing machine next to her work-from-home desk, every other day she spends her lunchtime and a few hours after work making masks.

After Cynthia posted on her Facebook page that she was making masks, she began getting requests from friends from all over. She’s mailed her homemade masks to friends who live locally and in other parts of Oregon, the Seattle region, El Paso, Texas, and for a friend who is a nurse and member of her hospital’s virus team in Lisbon, Maine.

“It’s been fun when friends and family come by to pick them up,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to see people, even if it’s from a distance.

“I just wanted to be useful,” she added. “It’s my little way to help.”

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Moda comes from the latin term "modus" and means "a way". We picked it because that's what we are here to do: help our communities find a way to better health.

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