Nurses Combine to Help Each Other with Mask Making

carol berger
Carol Berger holds a box of masks that she has made before she sent them to the Hospice center.

By Deb Christiansen

During this time, what do you do when your healthcare company, Elara Caring Hospice, is last in line to receive PPE – personal protective equipment?

Find a friend who can sew, figured Deb Bender, RN.

This is the call that came into Carol Berger, a retired RN, in Schoolcraft. “When my friend asked me,” Berger said, “I couldn’t turn her down. Nursing is in my DNA. I couldn’t turn down a call for help.” So Carol, along with husband, Doug, and many donations of materials from neighbors and friends, began crafting masks. Lots of them, 650 in all, went to her friend’s company. “The effort gained momentum and I felt as though I couldn’t stop,” Berger said.

“Bender would come pick the masks up. None of this would have happened had she not been the impetus in this dilemma. She is a clinical manager there. We have been friends since freshman year at Nazareth College. She brought the masks to her office, then management would distribute. Nurses and aides, office staff, clergy and social workers are all wearing them. She is the one that brought me needed supplies in the beginning and taught me how to use the mask pattern. I feel she deserves a lot of the credit,” Berger said.

To date, over 900 masks have been made. The endeavor has also resulted in paid work. “My neighbor got me a paid gig,” Berger said. “I wasn’t looking for it, but now the demand is high and the materials are scarce, especially elastic.”

Berger was asked what it’s like staying at home and working with her husband. “Doug is a freelance graphic designer who was already working from home. He has been incredibly generous with his time by showing up at the sewing room once his projects are done.

“There have been some ‘workplace disputes’ in the sewing room, mostly about which music to listen to next. It has playfully tested our listening skills and patience, but all and all it’s been a very positive experience.”

The mask making has kept Berger from some of the household projects that others of us now have the time for, such as spring cleaning. “There are so many other household things I could be doing, but this mission takes precedence,” Berger said. “Besides, it keeps me from worrying about my fellow healthcare professionals and all the other worries about this time.”

It remains to be seen whether the Bergers will continue their mask project once the state opens back up, but there is no doubt it is one of the bright spots of the lock down. “I’ve seen an outpouring of generosity from neighbors,” Berger said. “I live in an awesome place.”

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