Written by Rita Thompson
Frontline workers are struggling with access to personal protective equipment as the need for such resources continues to grow.
Masks are just one example. But, healthcare workers are facing more barriers than the critical need for personal protective equipment alone. After work hours, morale is low and our frontline fighters are returning to hotels with little comfort or even a warm meal.
Furthermore, as citizens continue to hoard surgical masks, reports USA Today, our frontline workers are forced to re-use what they have.
Health Care Finance News reports that, “after so many hours wearing this form of personal protective equipment, skin can tear, increasing the likelihood of infection.”
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A Plea for Help
Amy Warner is a nurse from Vancouver, Wash. who was placed in New York City through a staffing agency amid the pandemic. Because the agency was not responsible for providing any personal protective equipment, Warner feared she’d contract COVID-19 at her hotel before she could even be placed in a hospital.
“The agency that hired me tried to fit me with one style of N95,” Warner explained to the Emerald. “When it didn’t fit I was told to either wear the obviously ill-fitted mask, get my own fitted mask, or go home.”
After wearing the same N95 mask for days and reusing disposable gowns multiple times, Warner turned to Facebook to ask for help.
“There was just such a need for supplies and [personal protective equipment]. Even simple things like coffee makers and cold drinks for nurses to survive these long 12 to 14 hour shifts were hard to get,” Warner explains. “I decided to give it a shot and reach out to the moms of NYC,”
Soon, 10 to 20 packages of supplies started to arrive per day for nurses and patients at the hospital and hotels.
“I wasn’t expecting the amazing responses I got! I was absolutely floored by the outpouring of love,” says Warner. “Every single day, I spent hours after my shift was over opening boxes and just crying tears of joy and disbelief.”
Warner knew she was taking a risk by asking for help. According to her, some hospitals and agencies were discouraging staff from asking for donations in fear of “looking bad,” she explains.
“I took a risk and put myself out there,” Warner says.
“Worst case scenario, I’d be let go. And I was ok with that,” she added. “I was at peace knowing I was going to do whatever I could do to improve the safety and quality of life of the patients and healthcare workers.”
Essential Workers or Expendable Products?
As nurses like Amy Warner continue to put our livelihoods before their own, it certainly raises questions as to why they aren’t getting the support they need.
Our leaders continue to throw around words like “essential workers” and “heroes.” However, with little support from the federal government and employers, many of the workers feel that they’re being treated as expendable.
“Language like essential worker and hero is a way for our government and media to desensitize what is really happening here,” explains Humble Bloom co-founder, Danniel Swatosh.
“In truth, our systems were not built to support us, and these workers are considered expendable,” she says.
While you might think that the rising number of deaths among health care workers might swing our leaders into action, promises for personal protective equipment are starting to wear thin, reports the Nursing Times.
According to NBC News, this lack of support has caused many nurses to step away from their jobs in fear of not only their own safety but also their familys’ safety, too.
“It was an extremely difficult decision, but as a mother and wife, the health of my family will always come first,” Kelly Stanton, a nurse of 28 years explained to NBC. “In the end, I could not accept that I could be responsible for causing one of my family members to become severely ill or possibly die.”
With the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reporting 9,282 COVID-19 cases amongst U.S healthcare workers from Feb. 12 – April 9, this fear is real.
How Humble Bloom Helps
Swatosh saw Warner’s call for resources, and began racking her brain—and her network—for solutions.
“As a community builder, it was natural for me to take action and inspire my network to show up in the best ways they could,” Swatosh says.
From cannabis to fast food, Swatosh teamed up with businesses to deliver thousands of masks, meals, and CBD products to frontline workers. All without raising a penny.
For example, the company partnered with MaskForce, a platform for protecting COVID-19’s Frontline, to deliver 30,000 masks directly to nurses. Additionally, Mask Force supplied upwards of 150,000 masks and shields to medical workers in NYC, LA, Miami, New Orleans, the Navajo Nation, and rural hospitals in the Northeast.
Lulu Tsui, co-founder of the cannabis community platform, Revel, stepped in with connections to McDonald’s public relation’s team. This connection led to the donations of 56,000 meals to 4,000 nurses in just two weeks.
“When nurses are running on low, working 17 hours a day and can’t get a meal, this was GOLDEN,” says Swatosh.
Self-Care and CBD
The cannabis community has further stepped up by generously gifting $40,000 worth of CBD products. Bath bombs, face masks, creams, and salves are all aimed towards giving nurses the love and care they deserve.
When Warner returned to social media to tell her fellow nurses about the CBD products, she was shocked by the response.
“I posted on Facebook for nurses to come to my room to get CBD products, some asked if I was joking,” she explains. “I was shocked when I opened my hotel door and found a line forming in the hallway!!”
“The gratitude on everyone’s faces when they walked into my room and saw all the boxes was everything to me,” says Warner. “When you are exhausted and overworked and lonely; it’s the little things that keep you going.”
Swatosh credits Warner with sparking the movement and going above and beyond for her community.
“[Warner is] sacrificing her time with her children and husband, even missing her baby’s birthday to save our lives,” Swatosh tells the Emerald.
“Because of Warner’s call for help, I was able to take action and all of these people were able to also show up. [She] was essential in distributing all of the donations in the very little extra time she had after long shifts,” Swatosh continues.
As nurse Warner reminds us, “You can’t do everything, but you can do something. So do something!!”
To Show Your Support:
Donate to MaskForce who has sourced +150k medical masks and face shields, and are delivering them directly to medical workers in NYC, LA, Miami, New Orleans, the Navajo Nation, and rural hospitals in the Northeast.