Mt. Pleasant nurse comes up with design for face masks that still let the hearing-impaired read lips

Companies are converting their manufacturing facilities, switching over from making their own products to much-needed medical supplies. Individuals are organizing small groups of volunteers to sew and assemble the same. For all of the distressing things caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, of which there are many, there are also plenty of instances of inspiring acts of compassion and aid.

Like many others around the state, Sarah Bloomfield has taken it upon herself to sew face masks by hand. Bloomfield, a hospice nurse for MidMichigan Home Care at the Woodland Hospice House in Mt. Pleasant, has seen the need for personal protective equipment, or PPE, first-hand.

Bloomfield’s own face masks are different than most. That’s because one of her co-workers is hearing-impaired.

When it became mandatory for Bloomfield and her co-workers to wear face masks at Woodland, her colleague, who depends on lip-reading to communicate with their colleagues, would no longer be able to work.

"There is a communicator surgical mask on the market but they are all on back-order. So I looked at what they look like—I’ve sewn for about 20 years—I looked and made my own pattern that serves the same purpose,” Bloomfield says.

Bloomfield and her fellow nurses all wear the communicator face masks so that their co-worker can read their lips. The 100 percent cotton masks feature a clear vinyl window over the mouth to allow for lip reading.

What started as a means for keeping her coworker on the job has since grown to reach other parts of the state. After posting her design on social media, a group of volunteers have begun to make their own communicator face masks. Hard-of-hearing services are now distributing her masks, too.

"Since putting out the pattern, people all over have been reaching out to me," Bloomfield says.

"I want people to be able to communicate and still have the proper PPE at work."

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