Nurse creates special mask for deaf father


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (CNN) – For new parents Will and Jennifer McKendree, the coronavirus pandemic brought on a new level of anxiety.

“My perspective changed with the COVID of being excited to bring a child into the world to one of survival,” Jennifer said.

Cooper Lynn’s birth on April 10 was a special moment that her father feared he wouldn’t be able to fully be a part of.

“I couldn’t hear anything,” Will said.

Will is deaf.

He reads lips and uses visual cues such as hand and mouth motions, but the masks protecting staff at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital made it nearly impossible to communicate with will.

“We felt like giving another avenue where he could be part of the conversation was really important,” Nurse Manager Reagan Boomer said.

And so, a small army of staff members at Princess Anne got to work.

“I just happened to have my sewing machine at work,” Lori Holleman, a nurse specialist, said.

They sewed together special masks containing heavy-duty page protectors as windows to see the mouth–all within an hour of the McKendrees arriving to the hospital to welcome their daughter.

“I just started crying. It was very emotional,” Will said.

And after a few tweaks to the first model, Will was able to communicate with staff inside the labor room.

“It was just really special for him and us that they took the time as nurses and medical professionals that are risking their lives,” Jennifer said.

The Director of Women’s Health, Paige Crunk, says how much of a joy the McKendrees were to take care of.

“They were so appreciative. We are the ones who are the lucky ones,” Crunk said.

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