As the global coronavirus pandemic forces school and business closures across the world, Lyon County and Emporia have continued to work together as a community to provide for its healthcare services.
“Lyon County is in a pretty good position compared to other locations and we can credit our community for that,” said Ester Knobloch, infection preventionist at Newman Regional health, in a phone call. “(Members of the community have been) actively sewing cloth masks for our patients so we can keep the medical-grade masks for our staff.”
As the nation faces a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment, Emporia State, Flint Hills Tech and volunteers from the community have been working around the clock to provide hand-crafted equipment, from sewn masks to 3D-printed medical equipment.
“Already heading into this pandemic, one of the major manufacturers had had a breach in their processing so some of their equipment was contaminated so a ton of PPE was pulled off the market in the fall,” Knobloch said. “We were already experiencing backorders from that event.”
Equipment allocations are calculated for a three-month average use to prevent hospitals from stockpiling equipment that is needed elsewhere, Knobloch said.
“There are six healthcare coalitions in KS that we have requested supplies from, but it is not near the volume that we need in this situation,” Knobloch said. “The state of Kansas has also opened its strategic stockpile, so we now have access to that.”
As equipment stockpiles are depleted, the hospital has had to consider the use of ventilator splitters, a device that allows patients to share the same ventilator when none are available.
“We know that it can be done but it is definitely a last resort because the breathing needs of the individuals need to be very similar,” Knobloch said. “No two people are the same and the course of the disease isn’t the same. There is always some risk when you hook people up to the same ventilator.”
With the school closed, the Student Wellness Center has moved its hours to be only open from 1-5 p.m. on Mondays in an effort to reduce the amount of staff on campus, according to Mary McDaniel Anschutz, director of Student Wellness.
“It has been an interesting transition,” Anschutz said in a phone call. “We’ve been in the clinic in the afternoon and working from home in the morning. Part of the reason for these slow transitions is the technological challenges. Our providers in the county don’t have very stable internet to be able to utilize some of the technology…Everybody all of a sudden is using it at once so there’s been challenges there.”
Students are encouraged to seek online counseling as the clinic restricts its hours.
“Students call, then a counselor will call them back to make those arrangements since there is a separate consent process,” Anschutz said. “We have quite a few mental health interns in the counseling center, and while they are not (providing counseling), they are doing some group classes… (to provide) some ways for students to process some of the things that are going on that are maybe not at the level of needing therapy but just a way to process some of those new feelings and stuff. This is all new to everybody.”
As shortages increase, ESU has taken an increasingly involved role in the production of open-source supplies.
“It’s so incredible,” Anschutz said. “It’s not just masks, but face shields, vent splitters and door openers. We are sharing those effects online so anyone in the area with 3D printing can also help. What a game changer. I picture the people that I love that are vulnerable and I remember why we are doing this and who we are protecting. We are all in it together.”
With classes being conducted online associate professor of nursing Kari Hess said that her master’s and doctoral programs had prepared her for distance education.
“God kind of prepared me for this,” Hess said. “I’ve been in a doctoral program for the last four years at the university of Kansas. My doctoral and masters have been all online…I’ve touched foot on campus for my doctorate maybe twice.
The community has played a very active role in their collective health, according to Hess.
“All of these things I believe are very strategic and forward thinking in regard to the challenges we are being faced with,” Hess said. “We need to be orchestrated and organized. We got the numbers for the needs as far as local… (we have 3D printed) 150 masks so far and Rob (Gibson) has been working diligently to get out as many things as possible. It is amazing how everyone is banding together.”
Community members are encouraged to check out the learning technologies department open-source website for a variety of medical equipment that can be hand-crafted and 3D printed at https://sites.google.com/g.emporia.edu/learningtechnologies/home/3d-printed-ppe.
If you are not feeling well and are experiencing either coronavirus or flu symptoms, call (instead of visiting) the Student Wellness Center at 620-341-5222 or Newman Regional Health, 1201 W 12th Street, at 620-343-6800.