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Las Vegas locals sew, donate masks to hospitals in need

Updated March 23, 2020 - 1:26 pm

While the total number of positive cases of coronavirus in Nevada reached 190 Sunday morning, residents throughout the Las Vegas Valley flocked to University Medical Center to donate homemade masks in one of many efforts by locals to support hospitals running short on supplies.

“Hospitals need something; I happen to have something. Hospitals are doing important work and if you’re in a position to help, you should,” said JJ Johnson, a 42-year-old Spring Valley resident.

Johnson did a drive-through drop-off of 100 masks around 9 a.m. outside the medical center, where a table had been set up to take donations throughout the day. Johnson encouraged other residents to consider donating and said by not having to go into the hospital, immunocompromised residents could stay away from patients.

“Some of us happen to have our stockpile because of something you do at home,” he said.

Johnson was one of many residents given guidance on where to donate thanks to a tweet from Lela Bruno, 44, a nurse at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center.

Bruno tweeted Saturday afternoon hoping casinos, salons or artists that use masks and gloves would consider donating to University Medical Center, where Bruno’s husband, Joe, is a nurse.

“It can mean a nurse or doctors life,” she said in the tweet.

Bruno said hospital staff across the country that she’s spoken with have been told, because of such low inventory, to keep their masks until they’re soiled.

‘We’ll take everything’

“We prefer the N-95, but the nurses that aren’t working with people that are coughing, they’re fine with a surgical mask,” Bruno said. “We’ll take everything”

Bruno said that her husband told her about the outpouring of support during his shift Sunday morning.

“My husband was the nurse in charge at UMC during the shooting. I’ve always been so proud of our community. I knew our community would come together,” she said.

University Medical Center isn’t the only location taking donations, according to officials at Dignity Health. Residents wishing to donate to St. Rose hospitals may contact SRDH-Supplies@DignityHealth.org.

“We are happy to accept donations of unopened boxes of N-95 masks, surgical masks, and isolation gowns from local medical professionals,” the hospital said in a statement.

“As a former nurse, I know just how important the personal protection equipment, or PPE, is to the health care providers especially now when a very contagious virus is circulating,” Henderson resident Maria Ruiz, 51, said.

Ruiz said her husband is an emergency room doctor who worries that employees could be close to running out of masks at many local hospitals. Ruiz made 40 masks by Sunday evening but worried the materials she uses to make them may run out or the stores may close.

“It’s very great to see everyone willing to help!” she said.

Other efforts

Other residents are just beginning their efforts after hearing from nurses in other states feeling the same strain.

Anissa Gustafson, 47, of Centennial Hills, said her sisters are emergency room nurses in Wyoming who estimated they’d be out of supplies by the end of March.

“I have tons of fabric, I have the time,” she said. “It’s such a grassroots effort. There’s a lot of debate online from people (about) which masks are better. I think whatever you’re capable of making that someone can use and want, do it.”

Gustafson also is donating to her former job, Children’s Heart Center Nevada, and local health care workers who have reached out to her.

After hearing about the donations at University Medical Center and Gustafson’s work, southwest resident Sheila Gillespie, 53, said she was waiting for confirmation that a hospital would take her donations before she began production Sunday afternoon.

Gillespie is part of the Desert Quilters of Nevada, who she estimates could make a few thousand masks among the hundreds of members to help local hospitals.

“We want to come together as a community, and it’s something that we’re able to do,” she said.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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