Mother-daughter duo work to fill local PPE shortage

Carol Janssen and Betty Prull, daughter and mother, have been collaborating since March of making various forms of PPE for employees at Above & Beyond. Prull said being able to make gowns and masks has been a creative outlet for her while isolated during the pandemic. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Producing hundreds of PPE for local healthcare workers brought one mother-daughter duo together to make a difference.

     The COVID-19 crisis has been hanging on since early March. It was then that the governor started restricting access to businesses, services, even family members.

     Betty Prull of Monticello, a former nurse herself, decided that instead of sitting at home with nothing to do, she was going to make use of her sewing machine and talents and produce homemade PPE for the healthcare workers at Above & Beyond Home Health and Hospice.

     Prull’s daughter, Carol Janssen, is a home health nurse with Above & Beyond. She saw first-hand the need for PPE among her co-workers and patients. Janssen said the home health staff are wearing full PPE, including gowns, masks, and hair caps. All of the Above & Beyond staff is wearing facemasks. If a patient is suspected of having COVID-19, they add a face shield and goggles.

     “We’ve never had an issue with a patient,” relayed Janssen.

     So, the two gals got together in March and hit the ground running making 70-plus gowns, several hundred facemasks, and a couple dozen caps.

     “The caps are used if you’re around someone suspected of having COVID-19,” explained Janssen. “It prevents the virus from getting in your hair if contagious.”

     The masks were made using the Olson pattern, which is the same Jones Regional Medical Center uses as well. Janssen said the masks allow filters to go inside as an added layer of protection.

     Prull said being able to make PPE for so many people was a Godsend because it kept her busy day and night.

     “I was never bored,” she said. “I was sewing the whole time. It was like therapy for me.”

     Carol said she was glad she had her sewing machine serviced last year, because she kept it running a lot, too.

     Several family members and friends of Above & Beyond staff also assisted in the PPE endeavor. 

     “We’ve been very supported by the community and the outpouring of support,” said Janssen. “It’s really helped to relieve the pressure on us to find PPE on our own.”

     Everything Prull and Janssen made is washable. They also produced about a dozen disposable gowns out of reusable grocery bag material.

     “Those are not comfortable to wear,” remarked Janssen of the stiff material.

     Janssen said each Above & Beyond nurse received two gowns each.

     She said any time she asked Prull for a few masks, out came a dozen, more than requested. Prull enjoyed finding fun material to use for the PPE items, recycling old pillowcases and bed sheets. Janssen said the CDC recommended a polyester-cotton blend, especially for reusable PPE.

     Prull said sewing has now become a creative art form.

     “I saw the need and was glad I could help,” said Prull. “It was something I could do.”

     At one point, it became hard to find elastic for the masks, so the two improvised with rubber bands and ponytail holders.

     “We became frugal and creative,” joked Janssen. “Everybody in the community was so awesome if we ran out of material.”

     A friend of Janssen’s whose daughter also works in healthcare was looking for caps. Having placed an order, they still hadn’t arrived after two months. So Prull and Janssen started making PPE for others as well, including Janssen’s PEO members. Prull would give out masks to neighbors in need, and even made a special white mask for her granddaughter to wear for her First Communion later this month.

     “We’ve made a lot for patients and their families,” added Janssen.

     “I keep extra facemasks on hand if someone needs one,” offered Prull, displaying the wide range of masks for both guys and gals.

     Janssen said at first when the virus hit in March, things slowed down at Above & Beyond because patients weren’t having surgeries, needing home health assistance. Now, as things start to open back up, they are getting busier seeing patients. She said before they enter a house, they always ask the patients and families a series of questions regarding their possible exposure to COVID-19.

     Janssen was also teaching Sit & Get Fit classes to a group of 30-40 senior citizens. Now, she’s had to improvise with Facebook Live exercise classes that are viewed by 50-60 people.

     I’ve been a nurse for 50-plus years,” said Prull. “I’ve never anything like this in life and don’t want to see it again,” referring to the nationwide pandemic. “It’s impacted the whole world.”

     Janssen said they miss having big family gatherings, and resorted to a drive-by Easter parade and an outdoor social distanced Mother’s Day.

     Both said life right now is a new normal in terms of protecting oneself by wearing PPE.

     “I wear a mask because I care about your life,” said Prull of the reason for wearing a facemask in public.


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