Kentez Craig was inspired by his parents, both paramedics, to help his community in the fight against coronavirus.
The graduate student at Georgia Tech’s school of mechanical engineering has been working alongside a team since mid-March to design and build protective gear and medical equipment to help first responders battle the novel virus.
Growing up, Craig watched his parents leap into action and help those in need, which inspired him to jump into action and help those fighting on the front lines.
“I saw nothing better I could do to give back to people like my mom, my dad — who have been working in emergency services — and first responders on the real front lines of this,” Craig told NBC News.
When coronavirus began gaining momentum, Craig’s team, led by Chris Saldana, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, worked alongside Emory Healthcare staff to figure out which equipment they needed the most. They even got the staff’s input so that they designed the most comfortable and fully protective gear.
“When we were talking with health care workers, we realized that the need was in the order of millions, and the need was in the order of weeks, if not days,” Saldana said explaining that the team focused on creating a shield using a laser cutter and water jet cutter that could be easily mass produced.
“It was wild,” Craig recalled, adding, "we would get there at 7 or 8 in the morning, then look up and it was 5 p.m. You would lose track of time."
Within one week, the team built and delivered more than 5,000 face shields to hospitals across Atlanta. They've since donated thousands more to facilities in need.
The hospitals couldn’t be more grateful.
“If I had fireworks, I would have set them off,” Kari Love, program director for infection prevention at Emory Healthcare, told the publication.
“It was an amazing feeling to see the smiles on the faces of the Emory staff who were receiving them,” she said.
Dr. Jeremy Collins, executive vice chair of anesthesiology at Emory, admitted that the face shields were vital to treating coronavirus patients and durable enough to “sustain several weeks of use and rounds of disinfectant.”
Craig said it was “an honor” to help health care providers like his parents who he called “silent heroes.
“If I can make their day a little bit better and a little bit safer, I’m grateful for the opportunity to do such a thing,” he said.
His parents couldn’t be more proud to see their son giving back to their community. “It makes me feel wonderful because he’s saving my colleagues in the field,” his father, Kenneth, said.
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