VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Imagine putting on a surgical mask, hooking the elastic bands behind your ears, and then not taking it off for 12 hours.
That is the uncomfortable reality for the frontline workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic, but a Langley man hopes his little tool will help save sore ears and faces, and give those people a little boost, too.
“Just keeping up with the news and everything else, I saw a couple of posts about nurses and other frontline workers who have to wear their surgical masks and things like that and things like that all day, with the elastic straps digging into their ears and pulling on their cartilage and all of that, and it causing a lot of grief, and bleeding, and pain, and uncomfortable situations,” Gabe Gat, who is in supply chain management and a self-title maker of sorts, said.
He knew he needed to help — after all, he has the tools to create.
“I’ve got a lot of neat tools and I have an industrial laser in my garage, that I don’t know if I can explain why I have one, because, why not,” he told NEWS 1130, adding he was looking for ways he could contribute.
That’s when he spotted something called an “S hook,” which is placed at the back of the head that allows a person to hook bands to, sparing the ears.
“So I got to thinking about that and I made a few design modifications and worked on it myself,” Gat explained.
That’s when the Hero Hook was born. Shaped like a little superhero flexing their arms, Gat said elastic bands can be hooked onto the “limbs” to hopefully “save ears, while they save lives.”
Gat has made dozens of Hero Hooks so far, and distributed a bunch to some friends, like registered nurse Shayna Kerrie.
“Everybody is looking for some sort of resolution right now while we have to do these measures,” she said.
Kerrie explained, under non-pandemic situations, nurses would wear a surgical mask if they were directly caring for an infectious patient. The frontline worker would then remove and dispose of the mask after they were done dealing with the patient.
However, due to the current situation, she said nurses are usually wearing the same masks all day long, unless they get soiled.
“The idea is that they’re worn all day, with no reprieve from it, except for on breaks and those types of things, so you’re constantly getting the redness and soreness behind your ears from elastics, depending on how they fit,” Kerrie said.
So she jumped at the opportunity to try the Hero Hooks out — and shared the news with some of her other frontline worker friends.
“The response I got back was insane,” Kerrie said. But she added those on the frontline will likely get an extra boost from the shape of the Hero Hooks.
“Not only is this something that’s helping with comfort, but they don’t even know yet that they are actually these little superhero men that are coming to them,” she said. “I think it’ll give sort of a boost of morale as well, that you are a superhero, you’re wearing this and this is helping you in practice. We wear masks all the time but we never think about having to wear them for this kind of length of time, for a 12 hour shift, to be able to have these masks with the elastic behind the ear.”
And if you’re worried about sanitizing the Hero Hook, Gat has thought about that, too.
He said the hooks are made from acrylic, so they’re easy to disinfect.
“I chose that because it’s easy to sanitize, so there’s nothing they need to worry about,” Gat noted. “They can just spray them down with bleach or Clorox, or whatever they need to, and they can hopefully just keep using them over and over again.”
Kerrie noted that point isn’t something to be overlooked. It was actually the first thing she asked Gat about, she said, and told NEWS 1130 knowing what they’re made of eases the mind.
“We need to make sure that they’re not going to be a contributor to passing on any virus,” she added.
Gat plans to continue making the Hero Hooks as needed, with more than 120 done so far and shipped to friends even south of the border.
He has, however, run into a little bump in the road. Gat said he’s now looking to source more acrylic — so if you can help, he would like to hear from you.
“If anybody can get their hands on sheets of acrylic and is interested in making donations, that would be great,” Gat, who is making the Hero Hooks in his spare time at his own expense, said.
You can reach him at HeroHooks2020@gmail.com.
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