A Night of Worry Inspires Birth of Mask-Making Facebook Page

May 8, 2020
By: Kristen O'Reilly

Nursing Assistant Professor Terri Khoury, D.N.P., R.N., was awake at 3 a.m. one night in early March, worried about her daughter, a nurse in the emergency room of a Boston hospital, who was telling her about the unsafe rationing of personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers.

“I have to tell you I was outraged. I’ve worked in public health for 18 years, and we worked hard on emergency preparedness plans. We thought we were prepared for a pandemic, but here, one of the biggest hospitals in Boston didn’t have PPEs,” Khoury says.

That late-night worrying inspired her to take action, and the next morning she created a Facebook page called Mask Protection Response, inviting her own social circle to join.

“It started as a way to raise awareness for the lack of PPEs in our health care system, but it evolved into something else,” she says. Many of her contacts are also public health nurses, so they recognized the gravity of the problem and jumped at a chance to do something.

“I can’t sew, but I have lots of friends who do. I invited them all to the page to see how we could respond,” she says. The page became an information resource, with Khoury as the organizer, posting and sharing information on how to make cloth masks, how and where to distribute them, and how to set up similar systems in other areas. The page has more than 180 followers now.

The original thought was to make cloth masks that could fit over the N95 masks to extend their lives. Once the PPE situation improved in hospitals, the group started addressing the needs of nursing homes, senior centers, and homeless shelters. Khoury says the information they provided to others on how to set up a similar information clearinghouse was important, and attracted followers from as far away as Israel.

Khoury says a public health nurse friend living in Florida started a similar group in that state; another ran with the idea in New Hampshire; others created collaboratives on the North Shore and in the western part of the state.

“People want to feel like they’re doing something to help. This turned out to be a positive way to bring a community together,” she says.

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