Two weeks ago, we told you about hundreds of Massachusetts families struggling to get protective gear for the nurses providing in-home care for medically fragile children.
Our story caught the attention of some proactive students at Harvard Business School, who answered the call to help in a big way.
Danielle Waldman told me she watched Somerville mom Holly Simione talk about the struggle of safely caring for her daughter Elizabeth during the coronavirus pandemic.
Elizabeth has severe developmental disabilities and her bedroom is equipped with all the medical items you would expect to find in an intensive care unit at a hospital. She requires around-the-clock attention from her mom and skilled in-home nurses.
But as Simione explained, her supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) supply was running low and her home care agency said it was unable to provide additional resources.
“Your story was so heartbreaking about Holly and Elizabeth,” Waldman told me. “But I knew we could help.”
That’s because Waldman is part of an 11-person group at Harvard Business School, dubbed the “PPEople First Procurement Team.”
The grad students have turned their vision into an uplifting success story. In a matter of weeks, they created a supply chain to bring PPE supplies from China. The team has raised almost $3 million and converted the funds into 1.7 million pieces of the crucial protective gear.
So far, the team has delivered more than 350,000 pieces of PPE to health care organizations large and small. Along with masks, they have donated gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Grossman Marketing Group has provided the warehouse space and distribution services at no charge.
“It really shows you to dream big and go for it. I’m just honored to be part of such an amazing team of people,” Waldman said.
I put the students in touch with Dan Shannon, the executive director of the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council. Before long, the organization was filling up a minivan with nearly 4,000 masks.
Since then, Shannon has spent his days in his living room, packaging up and mailing out gear as he receives requests from families. The team expects to donate additional N95 masks and gloves in the next week.
“The impact of that one story has been huge,” Shannon told me.
In return, families have sent back a steady stream of appreciative photos and videos.
“I had one woman simply say, ‘Thank you. You’ve saved my daughter’s life.’ It’s a bit humbling to think something as simple as mailing out masks has that great of an impact on families,” Shannon said.
Simione told me she’s been blown away by the outpouring of support since she shared her story.
“It brought me to tears,” she expressed. “That’s why I reached out to you. It wasn’t just about what we were facing, but really to help all the children in our state like my daughter stay out of the hospital during this pandemic.”
Simione said she is sending virtual hugs until it’s safe again to give the real thing.
Waldman and her team told me they are returning that sentiment.
“To Holly and Elizabeth, hang in there,” Waldman said. “We are working tirelessly to get you the PPE you need. And I can’t wait to see you when the COVID-19 crisis is over.”
If you are interested in donating to the “PPEople First” team, a fund has been established through The Boston Foundation.