Breaking News Bar

A stitch in time: Marion teen among area seamstresses turning out medical masks for hospitals, funeral homes

  • Sabryna Richards of Marion is using her time off from school to sew CDC-compliant masks she plans to donate to are hospitals and medical personnel.

    Sabryna Richards of Marion is using her time off from school to sew CDC-compliant masks she plans to donate to are hospitals and medical personnel.
    Courtesy of Amy Richards

  • Amanda Ramsey models one of the masks she is sewing to donate to medical professionals in need.

    Amanda Ramsey models one of the masks she is sewing to donate to medical professionals in need.
    Courtesy of Amanda Ramsey

  • Sabryna Richards displays one of her completed masks to be donated to local hospitals.

    Sabryna Richards displays one of her completed masks to be donated to local hospitals.
    Courtesy of Amy Richards

  • Amanda Ramsey's machine and materials sit out ready to make medical masks.

    Amanda Ramsey's machine and materials sit out ready to make medical masks.
    Courtesy of Amanda Ramsey

 
BY HOLLY KEE
hkee@localsouthernnews.com
Posted on 3/24/2020, 11:22 AM

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS -- Amanda Ramsey of Du Quoin is no stranger to hospitals.

Not only was she employed as a medical transcriptionist for a dozen years, she also spent a fair amount of time as a caregiver for her sister and also as a patient.

Those experiences are the reason she is spending part of her "shelter in place" time at her sewing machine, churning out CDC-compliant masks to help supply medical facilities.

The CDC posted last week that "the supply chain of respirators cannot meet demand" and that looser-fitting surgical face masks "are an acceptable alternative" to specialized masks commonly known as N95 respirators. Surgical face masks can block the respiratory droplets of coughing or sneezing patients, the principal way the virus is spread.

"It is just a way I could pay it forward to those that helped me," she said.

In fact, Ramsey said she specifically wanted to pay it back to a local LPN, Savannah Tweedy, who she credits with saving her life a couple of years ago when she was diagnosed with a heart condition to go along with her Type I diabetes.

"She took care of me," said Ramsey. "She treated me with kindness, and respect ... she had such a gentle nature."

Tweedy is much more humble about her role.

"I was doing my job," said Tweedy, an LPN at Du Quoin's Marshall Browning hospital.

Tweedy said she saw a post that Hamilton County was asking for help to supply masks and put out the word.

Ramsey promptly responded.

"We have to be proactive in this and help out our community," she said, speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic. "I want to be a part of that."

In fact, Ramsey said she has plenty of time on her hands now, as her job doing sewing and embroidery for Main Street T's is on the "nonessential" list.

"I took a nonessential job and turned it into something essential," she said.

For 17-year-old Marion student Sabryna Richards, sewing was something she learned in school last year from her LIFE teacher as well as from her MaMa.

Her mom, Amy, suggested that sewing the masks would be a good project while school is canceled.

Sabryna said he not sure exactly how many masks she's churned out, but it's "a lot right now."

Getting materials can be a problem for both seamstresses, especially now that nonessential businesses have been shut down.

"I had some because I like to sew," said Sabryna.

"She also had some people that have donated materials to her," said Amy.

Ramsey has gone through her own stash of material and has created a wish list on Amazon at the suggestion of community members who want to help.

Both will be donating to places in need.

"Probably the hospital," said Sabryna, referring to her donation destination.

"We've also had some friends and family members who work at hospitals both in and out of state that have asked if she can make some," said Amy.

Ramsey plans to donate hers to any hospital that reaches out, including Marshall Browning and SIH facilities.

She will even be sending some to a cousin from Kennett, Missouri, for a dialysis unit. "The patients and nurses there need them," she said.

Ramsey also found an immediate local need for the masks.

"I'll be sending some to Riggin-Pillatsch & Burke Funeral Home in Carterville," she said.

Funeral homes are in need of the same protections as medical facilities, according to Darren Pyle, who owns Pyle Funeral Home in Johnston City.

"We're in extreme need," he said. "Everything is on back-order."

Pyle said the gloves and masks are essential for OSHA guidelines during the embalming process in case of contagious or infectious diseases.

"Embalming enables us to have a public visitation," he said.

Right now, those services are severely curtailed, under the shelter in place guidelines, with minimal viewing for immediate family, no more than 10 people at a time, and graveside services only.

"That's what is recommended," said Pyle. "We are following those recommendations."

Sabryna, like Ramsey, says she will sew until she runs out of materials.

Both will gladly accept donations.

Ramsey will take donations via PayPal at earamsey987@yahoo.com or welcomes items to be filled on her wish list at amazon.com.

Sabryna has a Facebook page, Sabryna's Styles, or can be emailed at Sabryna.sewing.styles@gmail.com.

"This is such a simple gesture," said Ramsey. "I may not be able to mass produce, but I can make a small difference."