#CLTgivePPE: The Grassroots Movement Behind the Hashtag
As the COVID-19 pandemic settled itself right into our own backyard here in Charlotte it became glaringly obvious in the healthcare community this was a battle we would find ourselves heading straight into and without protection for our most vulnerable – our healthcare providers.
Enter stage right: Sheila Natarajan, MD, double board-certified in both Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as Integrative Medicine, with Integra Rehab Physicians. She, along with six other women, formed CLTGIVEPPE; a grassroots movement in Charlotte created to support our frontline healthcare workers. This collective knew hospital systems and private practices alike would not have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to withstand what was coming our way.
PPE is protective clothing or equipment designed minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries or infection. They include items such as gloves, safety glasses, shoes, respirators, face shields, coveralls, and full body suits. Most healthcare systems use disposable PPE, which is designed for one-time use and after being in contact with a patient, the clinician then disposes of worn PPE.
“I was trained here in Charlotte, so I have a lot of friends and contacts in the healthcare industry and knew there was already a deep concern for significant expected PPE shortages as early as mid-March” said Dr. Natarajan. “One of the largest obstacles we had was the sheer volume of PPE that would be needed to meet the scale of this pandemic as the burn rate of disposable PPE is incredibly high.”
CLTGIVEPPE began as a simple social media campaign, a call out to the community to help find PPE and they responded with might and main with N95 respirators, surgical gloves, and gowns for our healthcare and frontline workers.
The response was so great, they were able to partner with Goodwill who reopened and staffed two of their sites to collect the PPE donations. Between private companies and local volunteers, the effort to source and produce PPE is making significant headway to meeting current deficiencies. CLTGIVEPPE’s “Sewing Angels”, donating their time and money for fabrics, have created thousands of masks and gowns whose patterns were created by a local master patternmaker.
Additionally, Dr. Natarajan shared, “While we need disposable N95s and gowns, we are also working with independent, private companies who have the capabilities to create reusable equipment. This is huge, because once a clinician has access to a reusable PPE, they become independent of the supply chain.” Crossing industry lines, CLTGIVEPPE has partnered with private companies such as USSC, working with Dr. Natarajan on their injection mold to mass produce reusable respirators (and filters!) as well as Morganton’s very own Stone & Leigh, a furniture maker who is sourcing medical-grade fabric for coveralls to be delivered to local fire departments and Emergency Departments.
Amalia Juchknick, one of the six women who founded CLTGIVEPPE shares, “We have been able to raise over $90,000 through our GoFundMe campaign and our COVID19 Miler which has been enough funding to not only pay for these special and needed fabrics, but to work with our partners to hire sewers in their factories. Knowing we are continuing to help others, even outside of the healthcare sector, is what this initiative is all about.”
“The thought that CLTGIVEPPE has successfully brought private companies, community volunteers together and through a social media effort, are even helping others keep their jobs by being able to pay for labor costs is such a phenomenal feeling.” says Dr. Natarajan. “We are completely blown away by those who have answered this call to action and that our community can come together to protect those who are on the front lines. We will all get through this together.”
Check out CLTGIVEPPE’s home page and Instagram account to learn how you too can help protect our frontline workers: https://www.cltgiveppe.org/.