I was genuinely touched when I saw staff on front line using masks

The South Dublin County Volunteer Centre, in partnership with South Dublin County Council, is running a campaign called Stories from the Frontline in recognition of all those who volunteered or are still volunteering during COVID-19

This is volunteer Michael’s story...

A friend and pharmaceutical colleague of mine, Eoin Cannon, asked if I could help with the 3D printing of face shields as PPE at the time was scarce around the country.

I saw this as a chance to provide some small element of support to people who were on the front line and risking everything to treat patients with Covid-19.

Stories from the Frontline Michael Walsh Darragh 1

Michael’s six-year-old son Darragh who helped out in the production of face shields

It started with me dusting off my 3D printer at home and printing a batch of 10 face shields.

Eoin picked these up from me and gave them to his brother in Tallaght hospital.

When I saw the photos of the staff using these to treat people, and expressing their thanks, I was genuinely touched and wanted to get these out to as many people on the front line as humanly possible.

I contacted Robbie O’Connor in TU Dublin Tallaght campus to see if himself and the team in 3D assist could help; especially Chris, Elaine, Fiona, Liam and Colm.

3D assist is a local charity based on the college campus, which does great work making prosthetics for kids.

I knew that having these on board would accelerate the production of face shields.

Robbie was instantly on board and that’s when things really started to kick off, and we started making hundreds of face shields per day.

My partner Lisa dropped down to our local Mr Price to see what we could use to make the visor screen and came back with a box of laminate pouches.

We then spent hours and hours laminating and 3D printing face shields, sometimes into the early hours of the morning.

When it came to assembly, I roped my 6-year-old son Darragh into making these up, the first time he built face shields,

He said his arms were sore halfway through, but he wanted to keep going because he wanted to help beat Corona.

Donating our first batch of 100 face shields was a proud moment for us all as a family and team.

A friend who is a nurse at a local hospital, collected the face shields at our front door and had tears in her eyes and could not stop saying thanks.

It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

In the weeks that followed, another friend Adam would pass by our garden before the start of his shift to pick up fresh batches we had left for him.

As our quantities went up, so did our demands for material and everything up to that stage was self-funded.

To help with this, Lisa put an appeal out on Facebook and within an hour, we had over 10,000 laminate sheets in the house.

Some local companies that were particularly generous were Devtech, Terenure Office Supplies and Carolyn’s Sweets among many others.

After Eoin mentioned our progress in Mallinckrodt pharmaceuticals, the company which we both work for, they supplied us with more machinery to help increase our quantities and the material to match.

My former job, Cathx Ocean also supplied me with the use of a 3D printer and materials.

The combined generosity of work and local businesses allowed us to bring our production to a place that I didn’t think was possible.

We solved one side of the problem, we were consistently producing hundreds of these every day from our combined efforts, now the problem we faced was getting them out to the people that needed them most.

As luck would have it, there were staff of five major hospitals living within five minutes of my house.

My house became a main hub for distributing the face shields and we had orders coming in and going out constantly.

The whole family including my son and 3-year-old twin girls had a role to play in manufacturing!

We had a system of "drop and knock", where the delivery was left at the door.

After word got around, we became busier and the order book became bigger and bigger.

Another local company named Solid Solutions Ireland got on board which effectively doubled our output.

We were now receiving requests from around the country.

As luck would also have it, my sister Elaine owns a company named Midland Truck and Trailer Spares which deliver nationwide.

I asked her for help and she was extremely generous with her time.

We were now producing hundreds of face shields daily, processing them and distributing nationwide.

Every time we heard that things were rough, it pushed us harder and harder to produce more.

We had some genuinely moving experiences with the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that we had the privilege of dealing with.

The goal that we started off with was to provide some support to front line workers in the form of PPE.

In the end, we produced approximately 10,000 face shields to over 70 healthcare providers as a team.

It was a truly great thing to be a part of and I am very proud of the combined success that we achieved as a group.

In a time of darkness, this gave everyone involved a shining light to follow.

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