Highlands Ranch, Colo. (June 1, 2020) – As COVID-19 began its global spread, the acronym “PPE” – personal protective equipment – became household terminology.
People weren’t sure how to obtain PPE, and many hospitals and health care systems across the nation were concerned about supply. While UCHealth’s procurement and conservation efforts ensured we were always in good shape with PPE, many people in our communities were working on ways that they could help.
A few weeks into the pandemic, a nurse working in clinical quality at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital reached out to a friend of hers who works at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, said Chris Olson, program manager of Infection Prevention and Emergency Preparedness at UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital. The friend told her that engineers at the global aerospace company’s Waterton campus were making face shields with their 3D printers and asked if UCHealth would be able to use them.
Within three or four days, Lockheed Martin Space delivered 500 face shields to Highlands Ranch Hospital free of charge, Olson said, and after testing the face shields internally the hospital began utilizing them.
“We’ve rolled them out in our hospital here,” Olson said. “We’ve given them to some of our staff members. EVS is using these a lot, and they like them. They’re easy to wear, they’re comfortable.”
As an Environmental Services (EVS) supervisor at Highlands Ranch Hospital, Juneka “JuJu” Chimembe cleans in many areas of the hospital using enhanced sterilization procedures. Donning of protective equipment prepares JuJu and all of the hospital’s EVS teams to disinfect for COVID-19 just like any other infectious disease.
Chimembe expressed appreciation for the donated face shields.
“When they came, it was just like gold – this PPE is really like gold to us, and we try to cherish it,” she said.
“They’re really great for staff because when we’re taking care of these patients we need to have full face coverage from top to bottom, and it helps protect their masks and keep them safe,” Olson added.
The 3D printing tools are the same technology Lockheed Martin utilizes to create parts for spacecraft.
“In order to manufacture something like a face shield, we obviously have to produce both the clear plastic portion as well as the visor portion,” Lockheed Martin Space Engineer Brian Kaplun said. “Built in two parts, a clear portion that protects your face and existing mask, as well as a visor portion.”
The face shields afforded Kaplun and his team a unique opportunity to be able to offer their expertise and time for a very important cause.
“One of the nicest and most gratifying aspects of this entire project has been the incredibly positive impact it has had on the morale of my team as well as everybody wanting to volunteer throughout Lockheed Martin Space in Denver,” said Kaplun. “It’s wonderful to see.”
Olson and Chimembe echo those thoughts.
“We know that someone was thinking of us,” Chimembe said.
“When we talk about community, to me it’s everybody working together,” Olson said. “We all have to work together to make sure that we’re doing the best we can to help each other out.”
Paula Freund, manager of public relations for UCHealth: 720.848.5809
Lauren Cole, communications for Lockheed Martin Space: 720.563.2667