Ann Blackburn

Local real estate agent Ann Blackburn has been using her time at home to make hand-sewn masks for health care workers and EMS personnel.

One local real estate agent saw a need during the coronavirus pandemic avnd is doing something about it.

Ann Blackburn, who is staying at home during the Covid-19 outbreak, is making masks to adonate to hospitals and clinics in the area.

The idea to help out came because I’m at home, staying home, and there are some Facebook groups where other people were making masks for the health care workers,” Blackburn said. “I have some friends who are nurses who were talking about the shortage. So I sent a message to one of the nurses at the Portland Emergency Room.

“I told them, ‘I’ve been hearing that the supplies were running low and I just wanted to see if y’all needed any masks. I can sew some for you.’ And she said, ‘We would love that. Our supplies are getting low and we were thinking we were going to run out by the end of next week.’ ”

Thus far in just a few days, Blackburn has put together 45 masks, making about 30 for workers at the Portland Tri-Star Emergency Room, plus getting another call from a facility in Springfield, who heard about her endeavor.

“I just started sewing, and a few days ago someone from the Fast Pace Urgent Care out of Springfield sent me a message and heard that I was doing that and asked if I could make 10 for them,” she said. “So far, I’ve made about 45. I also made one for me and my husband and a couple of people that work with my husband have asked for them. I’ve made a couple of the Sumner County ECC, but it’s mainly for the health care workers.”

While Blackburn’s masks are not of the N-95 variety that healthcare workers wear when dealing with the coronavirus, her mask is worn over the N-95 mask by the hospital employees to help prolong the lifespan of the N-95 mask and keep it from being thrown away so quickly.

“The masks — they do not protect from the virus, but what the nurses are doing is they are wearing them over the N-95 masks to help prolong their masks. They’re getting one use for like 12 hours and that’s it. So they’re wearing them over the (N-95) mask. They can wash them and reuse the hand-sewn mask, so they don’t have to throw them away,” she said.

Blackburn explains how she makes the masks that have a couple of unique features.

“It’s 100% cotton material. I make it out of that. Vanderbilt Medical Center actually put out directions on how they prefer them to be sewn. So I’ve used their guidelines with some adjustments I’ve put in like, like little wires along the nose ridge, so they can pinch them down,” Blackburn said. “I’ve left a pocket in them so they can insert filters in them. There are some other people that have been adjusting their masks that way, so I thought that was a good idea. So I adjustment my pattern to do that also.”

Blackburn also makes sure to sterilize each mask with a precise procedure before delivering them to the workers.

“They are sterilized. I wash them in hot water before I make them. I pre-shrink them and after I’m done, they get washed again, and then I use gloves to take them out of the dryer immediately and put them into a Zip-loc bag,” she said.

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