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St. Vincent’s East nurse helps medical superheroes express individuality with custom masks

Not all superheroes wear capes – some wear masks.

Instead of fighting felons, they battle truly deadly forces: COVID-19, cancer and other diseases or illnesses.

Wanda Roden is a registered nurse with a passion for her patients and a desire to make the work shift brighter for her co-workers. When she’s not at work, Roden enjoys sewing colorful face masks with inspirational messages for medical staff at St. Vincent’s East Hospital in Birmingham.

“I like making the masks,” said Roden, a nurse for about 30 years. “It’s fun, and it lets me be creative. A lot of co-workers and friends would ask me where I got my face mask. I made my own. Everyone enjoys them.

“That’s how I started making masks for my co-workers,” said Roden, who took a home economics class in high school and upholsters her furniture. “I ask what colors they like and try to tailor the design to their personality. Sometimes even patients ask where I got my mask.”

Nurses are all heart

For a month, Roden has made face shields for several of her oncology co-workers and many staff throughout the hospital. With her trusty Husqvarna sewing machine, she’s outfitted family, relatives and friends with protective gear. Thanks to Roden’s creativity, her sister and cousin – admitted Francophiles – sport masks with the Arc de Triomphe. She adds inspirational messages and scriptures to the designs.

Roden drew a pattern from which to cut fabric and keeps about 30 pre-cut masks in her craft room. Using a Cricut® Maker, she creates graphics – stethoscopes, hearts, crosses and flowers – and heat-glues them onto brightly patterned or solid-color cloth. These special touches let medical staff express their individuality, though their faces are covered.

“I wear a mask with my name on it to make things easier for my patients,” Roden said. “We all know how important it is to correctly wear our masks, to prevent anyone from breathing in droplets that can cause or spread infection.”
On the oncology floor, nurses wear surgical masks covered by cloth masks, such as those Roden makes. On the COVID-19 floor, medical staff wear an N95 respirator mask – preventing the entry of 95% of particles – covered by a cloth mask. Roden, along with many co-workers, has treated patients with the coronavirus. St. Vincent’s East converted several medical units into COVID-19 units to provide specialized care.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s April 28 ordinance passed by the city council requires people to wear a mask in public, which includes hospital grounds at the eastern end of the city.

“We must wear our mask at all times on hospital property,” said Roden, who noted that many people in the medical profession are making face masks.

When staff from other departments admire her and her co-workers’ colorful face shields, they ask where to buy them. The masks are never for sale – they are gifts, only.

“I make them just for fun,” Roden said. “They brighten people’s hearts in some tough situations. With the pandemic on everyone’s minds, we can all use that right now.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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