Lambton face shield group sees painful truth of virus

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Alex Billings wearing one of the face shields being produced by a group in Lambton.

Alex Billings now has an army of helpers and supporters creating protective face shields for health care workers.
The Petrolia man started making items useful for dealing with the novel coronavirus on his 3D Printer in mid-March. After a story in The Independent, Billings had three others come on board, Chris Martin, Terrie Boddaert and Eric Curragh. Now about 10 people are working on building light and heavy weighted shields.
“We have produced 969 light face shields and 147 heavy face shields,” as of Monday night says Billings. “Some are still awaiting supplies to be fully assembled and we have delivered 304 light weight and between 50 and 70 of our heavy face shields around the county.”
Billings says some of the shields are being used in the community in places like Lambton County Developmental Services and Hogan Pharmacy. And some, after some adjustments, are now being used in the intensive care unit at Bluewater Health Sarnia.
“We had to make a few adjustments to the length of the clear plastic shields that are destined for the ICU in Sarnia as they have special requirements for use but once those where met we where given the approval to provide them to the hospital in Sarnia.”
Billings says the volunteers are working all out to make as much of the protective equipment as they can to fill the gap until Ontario’s manufacturing community gears up to produce medical supplies.
“We coordinate using a site called Slack or by phone call. We are using Google sheets to input what is needed from the community so we can track where everything needs to go and everyone in the group has access to see what is needed and can update the numbers as face shields are produced and delivered.
“Everyone is normally checking in through the day to see who has what materials available so we can get it all into one place to be assembled and sent out for delivery.
“We try and limit how often we have to enter the community and typically have very little contact with the receiver to limit our exposure to illness.”
Billlings says they’re putting a lot of effort into getting the work done.
“Some of us are still putting in easily 15 to 18 hour days and others can only dedicate a few, but everyone helps out to the best of their ability.
“We have seen a lot of demand for what we are able to do and had an amazing amount of help from local businesses that have been supporting our efforts to help our frontline workers and despite the long hours and hard work from our team without the support of those businesses and organizations we would not be able to do what we are doing on the current scale we are running.”
Billings says they are getting donations from all over, including the Forest Legion Auxiliary, Manley’s Office Supplies, KKP – which has been donating the clear plastic and cutting it for the shields. Local unions are also stepping up with cash as are service clubs and businesses.
Billings says it is a tremendous amount of work but he’s proud to be helping out.
“It can be a truly amazing experience at times. I have reconnected with old friends, I have seen members of the local community band together for a common cause and fill a need that is extremely urgent in a very short amount of time.
“The whole team is very supportive of each other. There are members from all walks of life and professions united to protect our front line workers and that is something very special to be apart of,” says Billings adding the families of the people working on the projects have also been very supportive of them during their long hours of work.
“At the same time, we get a rare glimpse into the human impact of the current pandemic and how it is affecting people on a very deep personal level. “
And he says they see how this virus is affecting people. “We receive e-mails daily from members trying to protect vulnerable family members that are under going cancer treatment, cries for help from those with family in retirement and care homes afraid that their loved ones will get sick asking if there is anything we can do to help. Nurses on the front lines in the ICU with young children at home who have to report to work praying that they don’t bring this home to their families.
“For as much joy and energy that is generated from being a part of such an amazing group being apart of it also gives us a very real glimpse into the often painful and very emotional truths that are playing out on a daily basis throughout our community.”