UK HealthCare

UK Doctor, Friends Team Up to Create 'Superhero Mask Project'

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Superhero Mask Project creation
Kelly Nelson, a former UKHC ED nurse and pediatric clinic nurse practitioner, is the group's sewing guru.
Superhero Mask Project creation

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 16, 2020) — With each passing day and each new patient who comes through the doors of the emergency department at University of Kentucky's Chandler Hospital, emergency physicians are learning more about COVID-19.

"Our best strategy to fight this virus is to prevent the spread," said Dr. Brian Adkins, a UK HealthCare emergency physician. "Kentuckians have done an outstanding job stepping up to the challenge and working together to fight the infection, but there is more that needs done."

Adkins is one of the hundreds of UKHC providers on the front lines of COVID-19. He recognizes the extraordinary response from his colleagues in the field who are responding to this crisis, including nurses, physician assistants, paramedics, EMTs, exposed clinical, administrative and custodial workers — the list goes on.

"Despite the reasonable concerns for their own well-being, all of these folks are working hard and prioritizing helping others above themselves," he said. "It is truly remarkable to see, and I am so proud to work among them."

Adkins also sees the desire to help from people outside hospital walls, including within his own circle of family and friends.

"Like so many people, I had been sitting in my house hearing tragic stories and seeing heartbreaking images from around the world," Catherine Kamei, a family friend of Adkins and his wife, Miranda, said. "I was feeling helpless, wondering how I could make a difference in some way."

Kamei came up with the idea of creating the "Superhero Mask Project" after seeing stories of health care workers asking for home-sewn masks to compensate for shortages of PPE.

"I felt this was something the whole community could get involved in," she said. "I think we all need to have a sense of purpose and connection to our fellow human beings, especially during such a dark time."

Kamei said Brian and Miranda, who is a nurse, jumped on board immediately and even invited another friend, Kelly Nelson, a former UKHC ED nurse and pediatric clinic nurse practitioner, to join in. She serves as the group's sewing guru.

The Superhero Mask Project is a volunteer-based movement. Anyone can get involved and you do not have to know how to sew to help. The group has a Facebook page with step-by-step instructional videos, downloadable designs and sewing moderators who can answer questions. They are accepting supply donations for fabric, elastic, bias tape, etc. If you do not feel comfortable sewing, you can also help by prepping, cutting or washing fabric or by chipping in money to help purchase supplies and pay for shipping.

The masks are donated to hospitals, health care workers and other vulnerable groups. Kamei said they can also help to match local resources with local needs.

"For example, we are supporting St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California," she said. "Through our group, the costume department for a ballet company, also located in Santa Monica, is now making masks for their local hospital personnel."

Since launching the Superhero Mask Project on social media three weeks ago, the group has more than 700 members and has distributed more than 600 masks throughout Kentucky — including in Lexington and Louisville — and to seven other states.

"I've found that people across the country want to help in whatever way they can," Kamei said. "The groundswell of people willing to help in the ways that they can has been inspiring."

Local businesses are also starting to jump on board. The Kentucky Castle and East End Tap and Table in downtown Lexington have partnered with The Superhero Mask Project to serve as drop-off locations.

For more information about this group and its efforts, visit the Superhero Mask Project page on Facebook.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.