ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One local nurse is going way beyond her role caring for coronavirus patients. She has come up with a new way to help out the state’s hardest-hit areas. Laura Shaffer has taken on a second full-time job, managing a 24/7 PPE production line to distribute to healthcare workers and the community alike.
An Albuquerque flight nurse witnesses COVID-19 destruction first-hand. “People say it, but I am telling you that it is rough out there,” Shaffer said. “Gallup is a big one. We go to Gallup a lot.” She transports patients from hard-hit areas, the Navajo Nation in particular.
“People try to use trash bags as PPE,” Shaffer said. “Patients are covered in blankets because there are not enough surgical masks to give to patients.”
Knowing something needed to be done, Shaffer turned to her dad who is the director of the Cosmiac Research Center at the University of New Mexico’s School of Engineering.
“Anytime you get a chance to work with your daughter, life just does not get any better than that,” her dad, Craig Kief said. He secured funding from the Air Force to order supplies and equipment, setting up a 24/7 production line at the research center to make 3D printed masks and face shields.
Last week, they delivered nearly 700 masks and 300 shields to the Navajo Nation. They have also started helping out other vulnerable populations like nursing homes in Albuquerque. “They have been tested at UNM and the particulate testing that was done shows that the filters we have are equivalent and a little bit better than N95,” Shaffer said.
Their team of volunteers is made up of UNM engineering students and nurses, combining their strengths to fill a desperate need. “It makes me very emotional to know we as a group are able to help people,” Shaffer said. “I am very lucky to be working with everyone that I am.”
Shaffer said she is in contact with the state to be able to do the mass distribution. She is also working towards being able to distribute PPE along her flight route. She has started a GoFundMe to cover some of the costs. There is also a 3D Printing Fund.