Gillette Children's team shifts from fabricating prosthetics to making masks

Members of the the orthotics and prosthetic department at Gillette Children’s Hospital are now making masks amid the pandemic.

From fabricating prosthetics and wheelchairs to now making masks, a team from the Orthotics, Prosthetics and Seating Department at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare is using their sewing skills to help their fellow hospital workers during COVID-19 pandemic.

"So, we've taken a group of orthotic, prosthetic and seating technicians and practitioners and basically taken a skill set they already had and just repurpose it for making the masks," said Aaron Rasmussen, a certified orthotist at Gillette Children's.

The team of about a half dozen longtime employees would normally being using their fabrication and sewing skills to help make items for children, but the need for masks is top priority now.

"We are all really skilled sewers and we are fabricators and we all like to invent and create, so this was right up our alley,” said Mike Pfleghaar, a seating technician at Gillette Specialty Healthcare. “We took it and ran with it."

The masks are intended for hospital employees not involved in direct patient care or in the effort to treat COVID-19 patients. That way those frontline workers are able to keep the PPE in stock that's essential for ultimate protection. 

The masks the team is making are far better than just cloth. They have been re-designed several times to ensure they keep out as many particles as possible. Team members tested a red dye spray on a mannequin to show how the masks would protect the individual if coughed or sneezed on. Pediatric Infectious Disease Physician Emily Schaaf was instrumental in creating the alternative face covering.

"These alternative face masks would be equivalent to a face cloth that someone could bring in from home, but we wanted to have something that Gillette could offer," said Schaaf.

This week, the team has made 400 masks. The plan is to make hundreds more, so their stockpile doesn't run out.