'You made these?': Riverview man delivers homemade visors to ER doctors and nurses
Louis Kierstead knew frontline workers, including his wife, were scared and wanted to help
When the pandemic and the panic began back in March, Louis Kierstead worried about his wife every time she left their Riverview home.
She is an emergency room nurse at the Moncton hospital, and knowing how nervous and apprehensive she and her healthcare colleagues were, he wanted to find a way to make them feel safer.
"I could have commiserated or I could say, 'What could I do to help?'"
Kierstead chose the latter. But it wasn't until he read an article about how Nike had retrofitted one of its factories to make full-face shields, that he had his answer.
"I asked my wife, I said, 'If you had one of these would you wear it?' When she said yes, I think she dismissed the question but I got curious and thought, 'Well, how would I go about making this?'."
Kierstead set out to find the supplies he would need to make the visors, and quickly had a prototype.
Healthcare workers struggling
While Kierstead, who was working from home, turned his dining room into a face-shield factory, Trena Brown was at the Moncton Hospital every day working alongside his wife.
As nurse manager for the emergency room, Brown admits the early weeks of the pandemic proved to be the "most challenging time" of her 26–year career.
There certainly, at the beginning, was a lot of fear and anxiety especially about what might come since we had seen what had happened in other areas in the world.- Dr. André Touchburn
"It started off with just this huge sense of the unknown and attempting to prepare ourselves and our teams in the best way we can," she said. "The unknown and lack of predictability factor really put us all on edge."
Dr. André Touchburn, who had just started his new job as medical director of the Moncton Hospital's emergency department in early March, borrows a line from Charles Dickens when asked to describe the past two months.
"It's been the best of times and the worst of times," he said.
"There certainly, at the beginning, was a lot of fear and anxiety especially about what might come since we had seen what had happened in other areas in the world."
The best of times however, has been the show of support from members of the public who stayed home when asked, and from those like Kierstead, who went beyond what was asked.
Components challenging to find
While healthcare workers changed every process they had, and worried about having an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, Kierstead had to get creative in his search for clear plastic to make his homemade face-shields.
At one point, he found himself at his local grocery store bakery, asking for a few unused cake containers.
"There's an elongated design that you use for Yule logs and that kind of stuff and so I talked to the manager…and he donated twenty of them."
While the cake container plastic worked after it was cut and the corners were rounded, the visibility wasn't "perfectly clear," so Kierstead found an alternate plastic source online.
Once he was satisfied that his design was "professional" and "comfortable," he set a goal of making 120 for healthcare workers at both hospitals in Moncton.
"I found it very therapeutic," he said of making the masks in the evenings and on weekends. "I would sit down at the table with a cup of coffee and sometimes a glass of wine and make ten in one sitting, and 15 in another."
'It really makes your day'
Earlier this month, with the help of his wife and daughter, Kierstead delivered 60 visors to both the Moncton Hospital and the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital's emergency room staff.
Even though New Brunswick has been fortunate, and hasn't faced a shortage of medical masks or face-shields, Kierstead said the response from the doctors and nurses was still enthusiastic.
"They said, 'You made these?' and 'How did you make them?' and I just explained and they said, 'Wow - it's so impressive.'"
For Touchburn, seeing the reaction from his staff was the best part of the delivery.
"It really makes your day to see people going to that length to help us out…it's a huge morale booster for the staff and just a good reminder that the community is with us."
Brown describes the support from Kierstead as "heartwarming" and said donations of food and hand sanitizer from individuals and businesses has shown healthcare workers that their work is "not going unnoticed."
"Although we don't do the work for recognition purposes …by the same token it's nice to know the work is appreciated."
Kierstead hopes he has "helped in some small way," and that the visors will also be an example to others who might have an idea to support healthcare workers who will continue to be on the front lines.
"If you think of something, before you overthink it, just start doing it. Don't think, 'Oh I can't do it because of this reason, I can't do it for that reason.' Just dive in because that's essentially what I did," he said.
"Everybody can help a little bit right?"
'Slow to let our guard down'
While COVID-19 continues to be under control in New Brunswick, Brown and Touchburn don't expect hospitals will ever go back to the way they were.
"We're going to be very slow to let our guard down. I'm not sure we ever will completely," he said. "I don't think anybody really knows exactly how this is going to play out."
While the community has been there for Touchburn and his colleagues, he reminds patients that the healthcare system continues to be there for them.
"It is safe to go to the emergency room if they require urgent care. People still have heart attacks and get appendicitis and if you've got a serious medical issue, don't be afraid to come to the emergency room."
Kierstead's face-shields will be inspected to ensure they meet standards before being offered to staff for use.