N.B. school using 3D printers to make ear guards for health-care workers

A teacher at Bessborough School in Moncton is using her class’s 3D printer to teach her students the importance of providing comfort for health-care professionals working tirelessly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Venessa Poirier-LeBlanc was inspired to make ear guards to ease the pain of masked health-care and essential workers, like her own mother who works as a senior care worker in a Moncton nursing home.

“It’s not fun when it pulls on your ears all day long,” she said.

Poirier-LeBlanc said she had brought home her class’s 3D printer to learn how to use it properly after she got the idea that she could use it to give back to those fighting the pandemic on the front lines.

She said she has always taught her students to put the device to good use, and hopes this serves as an example of the importance of showing support for the community.

“I always tell them that the only time they can print something is if they find something useful to print it for,” Poirier-LeBlanc said.

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Given the times, she said you can’t get much more useful than printing out plastic ear guards. The guards strap to the elastics on medical masks and help take the pressure off the backs of ears. So far, she said she’s printed off three different prototypes, which her mom is now testing on the job.

“That is how it all started and people at her work wanted to have some too,” she said.

The clips, Poirier-LeBlanc says, are already easing her mother’s pain.

“Now it just stays there and she doesn’t feel it,” she said.

Poirier-LeBlanc now hopes to print off hundreds more for health-care workers across the region.

Bessborough School Principal, Nick Mattatall, said he plans to put two more of the school’s 3D printers to work on printing the clips. He said he is also hand-delivering the donated ears guards to nurses in his neighbourhood.

He said that he even sent some to his own mother and sister who are nurses Nova Scotia, hoping to give them some much-needed relief.

“After a 12-hour shift the back of their ears were quite irritated and sore and they are working hard enough as it is. They don’t need those things on top of it,” said Mattatall.

He has also challenged his students, who are at home during the pandemic, to come up with their own creative ways to help health-care workers protect their ears, and considers it a creative life lesson in giving back.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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