Island couple’s medical mask/ear saver bands in high demand

Emily and Nathan Hollenberg relieve medical staff from the strain of the masks on their ears

A Campbell River couple are making life a little more comfortable for physicians and medical staff.

Emily and Nathan Hollenberg are making surgical mask ear saver bands out of plastic and a 3D printer and they are being distributed to family physicians and medical clinic staff in the Comox Valley and Campbell River area. They have also sent the bands to other parts of the province.

“We saw a need for folks to relieve the strain from the masks on their ears,” Emily Hollenberg said. “Nathan has a 3D printer at home and we said, ‘Hey, we can do that.’”

RELATED: Greater Victoria Indigenous artist takes unique approach to COVID-19 masks

The masks when worn for a long time can start to chafe behind the ears and become uncomfortable, if not outright painful. The ear saver bands pull the strap away from behind the ear preventing it from rubbing and becoming sore. The straps even cause blisters.

The Hollenbergs found a design on the Internet and adapted it to say “Geo 1 Heroes” as part of the band that goes behind the head.

“And we’ve been printing those as fast as we can,” Emily said.

The Campbell River Hospital has already received a number of the bands for the emergency room, ICU and admitting. Other locations such as seniors extended care facilities, like Campbell River’s Yucalta Lodge, are on the list to recieve the bands. One hundred of the bands were delivered to family phyicians and medical clinic staff.

As of Thursday, the Hollenbergs had printed 330 bands and at 20 minutes per band, you can see that it is quite a time commitment. The Hollenbergs are also supplying the plastic to make the bands.

“We wish we had hundreds of printers and then we could print them as fast as we could,” she said.

By reaching out in social media, they were able to get a couple of volunteers step up and help make more masks. Another 244 masks had been made by Lucas Storti, Andy Brednow and Kyle Lesage. Poseidon Ocean Systems Limited in Campbell River also donated plastic and a printer.

They have requests for 1,038 bands in total. They’re getting “pretty low” in plastic now because what they’ve been using is Nathan’s own supply of which was given to him for Christmas two years ago.

“I’ve had a stockpile for a while, so I’m glad to use it up,” Nathan said.

RELATED: Vancouver Islanders step up to mask the response to COVID-19

And the bands haven’t just been distributed in the Central Island. Eighty of them were sent to Williams Lake Hospital and some were sent to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster while others went to Port Alberni, Nanaimo and Burnaby. A shipment will be going to Edmonton as well.

Word of the bands got around on social media after the Hollenbergs did some reaching out and so requests have come in through those channels.

Within two days they had hundreds of units being requested.

The limiting production factor is the number of 3D printers. So, if you’ve got one, you can help the cause. Find the Hollenbergs on Facebook and send them a message.

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