When Cheryl Murphy, OD, of Northport, New York, stopped working due to the COVID-19 closures, she decided to dust off the sewing machine she got when she was in middle school. “My mom bought me a sewing machine so I could finish a home ec project.”
Although she had not touched it in 30 years, she felt confident she could figure out how to sew masks for health care workers who needed to protect their N95 masks. A cloth mask can offer some protection for non-health care practitioners in that is better than wearing nothing at all,” she says, especially now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging the use of masks in public.
The first day, she watched YouTube videos, not only on how to make masks but also to reacquaint herself to the sewing machine: threading, loading a bobbin and more. Her daily output has increased, and she’s enjoying the feeling of being able to help people. “My best friend is an RN, who is running dangerously low on personal protective equipment,” she says. When people who are not health care providers are wearing cloth masks, it should reserve more of the medical-grade masks for health care providers.
Dr. Murphy adds that she is delighted by the connections she has made distributing nearly 100 masks. She discovered a sewing community through Facebook, called Stitched Together Long Island, and support from strangers who are grateful for what she’s doing. One person, whom she did not know, asked if she could buy a mask or two from Dr. Murphy. “She was immunocompromised and had nothing at all to wear to her needed doctor appointments, and it was starting to scare her.” Dr. Murphy provided them to her for free. “We’re health care providers. We want to help people,” she says, and sewing masks lets her participate—even if she’s not seeing patients.