With known coronavirus infections passing the 1 million mark globally last week, one homeschool teen from Washington state was not at home on social media, watching TV or playing video games, but creating impenetrable face coverings to keep hospital workers from contracting the highly contagious virus.
“Connor Duncan – a sophomore homeschooler in Spokane, Washington – decided to take action to help people, like his mom (who is a nurse practitioner),” Townhall reported Friday. “He used his love of math and science to create face shields using a 3-D printer.”
Meeting needs beyond the home
Seeing how his mother and other healthcare workers are exposed daily to COVID-19, Duncan realized that the dearth of needed personal protective equipment (PPE) at the local medical facility put staff on the frontlines at great risk – let alone the millions of medical professionals working in hospitals across the United States.
“I know that there’s a national shortage of the personal protective equipment, so I wanted to protect them with these masks,” Duncan explained, according to KXLY. “It’s something that was just a hobby, and now it can be applied toward other things.”
With stores and medical supply distributors continuing to run out of masks, Connor decided to take things into his own hands … and the face coverings he produces are much more sanitary and easy to clean than the conventional face masks, scarves or bandanas millions are putting into use across the world.
"Because of the shortage of the personal protective equipment, it’s kind of something that I wanted to do to protect my mother," the 16-year-old divulged, according to Inlander.com. "The headbands can be reused, and the face shields can just be interchanged, and since it is plastic, it can be sanitized."
Pursuing a career as an orthopedic surgeon, Connor realizes the dire need to keep physicians and nurses stay healthy so they can do their jobs.
"I want to be a surgeon, and I know with keeping the entire medical field safe, it’s going to let future generations kind of learn,” he told the local news outfit in Spokane.
Well aware of his early passion for the field of medicine, Connor’s mother, Christina Duncan – who works for DispatchHealth – was still surprised when Connor divulged his industrious enterprise to her to combat the coronavirus.
“He said, ‘Mom, I found this really awesome YouTube video on printing 3D face shields off my printer,’ and I was like, ‘What?! Really?” the nurse practitioner shared.
Connor explained to 4 News Now that the process of producing each of the 20 masks he is making for his mother’s medical team is extremely time-consuming, but this does not dissuade the teen.
“Once Connor watched the how-to video, he found a 3D file online to send to his printer, [and from there, he printed off a laminated sheet, hole-punched it, then attached it to the printed plastic,” the local TV station informed. “Every mask of Connor’s takes about two hours to make, and so far, he has made nine.”
Better masks, less stress
The maximized face protection makes the 16-year-old’s mom that much less wary and more confident to perform her job without the added stress of contracting the potential life-threatening disease.
“We are really putting ourselves out there,” she told KXLY. “When we go see patients right now, we are fully gloved and masked, and we have eye protection, and for any respiratory complaints, we are wearing gowns and shoe protectors. We have face shields.”
Prior to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, a good majority of the patients at DispatchHealth were elderly, but since the global pandemic began to spread, a broad spectrum of ages show up at Connor’s mom’s clinic every day.
"We saw over 400 patients in the month of March, and our numbers are growing," Christina recounted. "We see everybody from three months old and older. We’re definitely seeing a broader spectrum of patients."
She also contended that without her son’s innovative face coverings for her crew, many of her patients would likely not want to be examined and treated out of fear of contracting COVID-19 from her crew – especially as hospitals continue to run out of sufficient space – so she is extremely thankful for her son.
“I’ve tried to teach my kids that, you know, always try to help others – no matter what is going on – so I’m really super-proud of him,” the Washington nurse shared.
As of early Sunday morning, more than 1.2 million people around the world have been infected with COVID-19, with nearly 65,000 deaths. The U.S. has approximately a quarter of the known infections at 311,000-plus, with a death toll now approaching 8,500.