By Camila Beiner
BU News Service
BROOKLINE – Three Brookline High School students have created an initiative to collect donated personal protective equipment from local families to support hospitals lacking the necessary supplies.
Ava Linas, Alexa Kalish and Ana Martino — all sophomores — partnered up with the Boston Medical Center to gather equipment Brookline residents already had at home including masks, face shields and gloves after growing concerns for the safety of hospital personnel treating patients who were infected with COVID-19.
Linas, 16, said her father is a doctor at Boston Medical Center and proposed the idea to start the project after schools closed in Massachusetts. He wanted the students to contribute to local hospitals.
“We did some research and then started the PPE collection project,” Linas said. “It’s important for us to make sure the doctors are safe and healthy since a lot of our parents are doctors and work at the hospitals.”
So far, the three students have been able to donate about 300 surgical masks, 700 gloves, 10 N95 and two sets of eye protection goggles to the Boston Medical Center. Linas said in starting this project, she recognized how interested the community is in helping overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
“This made me realize how much of an impact regular people can have on the health of our medical professionals,” Linas said.
Kalish, 15, said her father is a vascular surgeon at Boston Medical Center and she is concerned about his possible exposure to people with COVID19.
“The hospitals are getting hit the hardest,” Kalish said. “They are short on essential supplies needed to stop this global pandemic.”
Kalish said they tried to call over 80 local companies in the Brookline and Newton areas that would have extra resources they might be willing to donate to the hospitals. After very little success, she said, they turned to social media to connect with families in Brookline.
“We were hoping to crowdsource PPE gear, which BMC is most in need of, that people had in their homes and were willing to donate,” Kalish said. “Everyone in the Brookline community has been very gracious and giving.”
Kalish said people have donated everything from surgical masks and gloves to protective eyewear for doctors. In just one day in Brookline, she said, families donated over 400 gloves and a couple of N95 masks.
Local community members also have volunteered to sew 100 surgical masks and become involved in the initiative, Kalish said. To make it easier to donate, she said families have the option to drop off supplies in one of the students’ homes or get it picked up directly.
Dr. Benjamin Linas, an infectious disease doctor at Boston Medical Center and Ava’s father, said when they began the effort, he thought it would be helpful for the three students to not just be victims but also take action and be part of the solution.
“I wanted them to be doing something productive that was potentially educational and helpful,” Linas said. “A part of it was really just pure desperation, we need a workforce, we need to find personal protective equipment and scrape every corner and talk to every person who might have some.”
Linas said any small contribution helps because hundreds of thousands of masks are needed at just one hospital, not just across the system. He said the country was not fully prepared for this pandemic, and the evidence is clear in the lack of testing and lack of supplies in hospitals.
“It’s just absolutely unacceptable and unimaginable that we might be asking anyone in any hospital in America to go in and do this duty without providing them the tools they need to do it safely,” he said. “It is completely imperative on hospitals to immediately deal with this problem everywhere.”
Linas said if there is not a physical supply of personal equipment available and easily ordered, then it is up to the hospitals to start talking to local manufacturers in their communities and thinking of creative solutions to overcome the problem.
Working on the project with the students, Linas said, he learned a lot about companies who had never been involved in the healthcare system but due to their manufacturing capabilities, wanted to help by transitioning their production abilities to make face shields.
Martino, 15, said she contacted various companies including eye doctors and construction companies who were unable to donate to their project because they were already involved in other efforts to help hospitals.
“Almost every single company I tried to contact could not donate anything because either they were shut down already or their supplier had cut them off because they were already donating or they had already been contacted by another group of people who are doing the same thing as us,” Martino said.
Taking action is always something Martino wanted to do, she said, and many people close to her in the community work at hospitals.
While Linas blames “the federal government for not being ready for this,” he calls it an “an epic failure of public health.” He said this type of volunteer work from the sophomores at Brookline High forms a sense of community solidarity.
“It’s important for the community to feel like we’re working together on this,” Ben Linas said.