There’s been so much written, spoken and talked about when it comes to PPE during this global pandemic, certainly in the UK.
Where can we get it? How long can it take to arrive? Should we have more of it already?
We’ve even spoke to two of the people behind the #masksforNHSheroes initiative; an unbelievably successful campaign that saw members of the NHS, and soon after the general public, play their part in raising money and bringing extra PPE to our frontline NHS workers.
But what if you already had PPE and just didn’t realise? That was the case for engineer Michael Armstrong. From just wanting to help a family member, he soon realised he could do a whole lot more.
He said: “I was really concerned about my sister-in-law. I said to her ‘I might be able to get hold of something, it won’t be the same grade because we’ll have something in the factory, but will it be better than nothing?’ She agreed and told me to have a look.
“She’s a matron and was trying to solve this problem for her particular ward, she was on the frontline at the time, in a hospital in London that had just been converted because of this crisis.
“So I started looking at what we had and said ‘we’ve got some FFP3s, this is the highest grade we use, is this any good to you?’ She said ‘that’s exactly what I’m looking for,’ and that was the moment where I was like ‘well, there’s loads of these.’ Everywhere you go, there’ll be stocks and stocks of P3s, so we just need to get them there.
“So it started off with just trying to arrange a courier, to send the P3s from our factory to my sister-in-law. Then I thought ‘if I just send a video out…’ I made a slightly manic video and sent it around my network, and just said ‘get whatever masks you can to the NHS’, and that resulted in a few more masks going and a few texts saying ‘we’ve emptied our storeroom’ and that help to plug that short term gap in a small way.”
Although concern for his sister-in-law sparked Michael into gear, he admitted the responsibilities in is day job would always lead to him helping in one way or another.
“Something I reflected on and I didn’t realise, is that I’ve been conditioned like Pavlov’s dog," he said. "Every week, or every day or twice a day, depending on what situation we’re in at the time, or what phase of a project, we’re brought into a briefing and we’re told about safety.
"We’re shown an example of something that’s gone wrong and that is designed to illicit a high adrenaline response, so when there’s a dangerous situation, that jumps you into something and you go ‘woah stop, this isn’t safe, we need to stop, we need to put safety first.’
"So there’s always a conditioning to remember what the important thing is. It’s not the money, it’s not the schedule, it’s not the quality as much as it is the safety of the people involved and the safety of the public. I just had this high adrenaline reaction, where I thought ‘I’ve literally got to do everything that I can’, to help in the short term. We’re at the start of an exponential growth pattern and whatever I do now, could help that. So I just worked as hard as I could and did whatever I could for a week."
It's that desire to help that has led Michael to taking action. His work regarding FFP masks might be over, having done as much as he can, but now Michael’s started a Facebook group, with the intention of helping even more people.
"We’re going to be a community group based around missions, so we’ll tag up certain missions, as we see them to be appropriate. So the first one was collecting PPE, the second one could be social contact on the internet for certain groups, then who knows?
"We’re just creating a platform to bring people together, in a way that’s targeted and make the most of the community momentum that’s around at the moment and try to carry that on through the crisis and beyond."
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