MCH surgeon, hundreds of Odessans power-up their sewing machines to make masks

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ODESSA, Tx. (KOSA) -- Before the COVID-19 took a big hit to the U.S., there was already talk about a shortage of medical protective equipment.

Now, the lack of surgical masks is starting to be felt here in West Texas, which is why one Odessa surgeon is starting to use her hands outside the hospital — and at her sewing machine.

When Dr. Faye Armstrong-Papp found out Medical Center Hospital only had enough surgical masks for the next two or three weeks, she knew she had to jump into action.

“It impact me directly in taking care of my patients,” she said.

It all started with a Facebook group. Dr. Armstrong was able to attract hundreds of seamstresses and quilters around Odessa who are powering up their machines to make 2,000 masks, which have been approved by the hospital to be used by doctors and nurses doing lower-risk work.

"I've been sewing since high school, so I enjoy sewing and this is a way I can use my other skills in my night fun to help with my day job," Dr. Armstrong explained.

“We are just her elves -- trying to make that vision a reality,” said Melvyn Sims, a local quilter who's helping out.

Sims saw Dr. Armstrong’s post last week, and got her local quilting friends together right away to help cut strips of muslin and stitch them together.

“Just to be able to feel like I’m doing something, while I’m sitting at home and can’t do anything else. Instead of binge watching Netflix or whatever -- I want to be making a difference,” Sims said.

Her so called “Spool Gang” started its own assembly line and is using video chat to stay connected as they work towards a team goal of 200 masks while in quarantine.

“I just feel like if my little group of eight friends can make even a dent in those 2,000 masks -- just make a difference -- then that’s what I wanna do," Sims explained.

Although, Dr. Armstrong said she’s been overwhelmed with how many people want to help out, and believes her facebook group of over 250 Odessans can eventually help meet the needs of any local medical professionals near the frontlines of this pandemic.

“My goal would be to take care of Medical Center, because that’s where I work — that’s my home — but then expand it out to other facilities. Doctor offices, and other places that have need. So, the more the merrier,“ Dr. Armstrong said.

If you would like to help Dr. Armstrong and the local seamstresses and quilters make masks for MCH, you can send a request to her “Masks for Medics Odessa, TX” Facebook page.