Doctors, nurses and resident doctors-in-training at Christus Spohn Shoreline Emergency Department in Corpus Christi are now wearing protective face shields produced by Charge, AEP's digital hub created to incubate and develop innovation projects.
The Charge team provided 100 face shields to the facility following a request submitted by AEP Texas Distribution Project Manager Chad Tomanec. Tomanec’s wife, Dr. Alainya Vollmering Tomanec (Shown above second from the left), an emergency medicine specialist at the facility and a faculty member of the Christus/Texas A&M Spohn Emergency Medicine Residency Program made her husband aware of the need.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, personal protective equipment (PPE) has been in high demand and often-short supply throughout the country, according to Dr. Tomanec. By early April, COVID-19 cases in Corpus Christi and other parts of Nueces County were still lower than other areas; however, concerns were growing that a continuing pandemic could exhaust PPE supplies at the emergency department.
“We are reusing much of our protective equipment, which under normal circumstances would be a single use,” she said. “Face masks and our respirator masks are being re-used after being sterilized multiple times.”
Uncertainty about the duration of the pandemic forced the hospital to limit the use of respirator masks, face shields and gowns when first meeting patients unless they are known to be ill with COVID-19, or when performing breathing treatments, inserting respiratory tubes or performing other procedures where COVID-19 droplets can be transmitted.
“While these limitations comply with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, many medical staff members felt uncomfortable because the patient’s actual condition is not known during that initial contact,” she said. “They feel much more safe having full protective gear when they see patients for the first time for their initial evaluation.
“A lot of physicians and nurses were trying to find and buy their own PPE in case the hospital began to run out or to avoid having to use up existing hospital resources,” Dr. Tomanec continued. “Some even approached welders about developing something similar to a transparent welder’s helmet or considered using scuba masks.”
She discussed the issue in early April with her husband, Chad. Then, on April 8, he read an article posted on AEP Now announcing that Charge is using its 3D printing lab to make protective face shields. He submitted a request on behalf of Christus Spohn Emergency Department.
Within four-to-five days, he received an email confirming the shipment of the first 25 face shields. Shipment of the remaining 75 shields followed several days later. Embossed on each shield headband is the message: “AEP Cares”. The letter enclosed with both shipments ends by saying, “You are heroes to us all!”
“Everybody in the hospital is really thankful for the way so many companies have stepped up and did what they could to help during this crisis,” Dr. Tomanec said. “This is a once in a lifetime experience for all of us, hopefully. Honestly, most of us feel that we are just doing our jobs. It’s definitely a unique situation, but we’re going to continue doing what we’re doing because that’s just what we do.
“And the face shields help us do what we do,” she added.