Needle and Thread to the Rescue

surgical masks
Atmore-constructed masks

USC doctor of physical therapy alumna uses free time, afforded by social distancing efforts, to provide frontline healthcare workers a little extra protection.

BY JOHN HOBBS MA ’14

Like most of us, Amy Atmore DPT ’11 has a lot more leisure time, as a result of shelter-at-home efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

A performance therapist for the Phoenix Suns, the USC alumna has been working from home, but on a limited basis, following NBA guidelines limiting access to physical facilities and players. 

But, unlike most of us, Atmore hasn’t lost herself in a what-day-is-it-anyway haze of Netflix and jogging pants.

“This experience has reminded me that one person can make a difference.”
—Amy Atmore DPT ’11

“After finding out that my sister, who works in the ER, had to wear her mask for 20-plus hours — and that this was the new norm across many hospitals right now — I began thinking I could figure out a way to make a mask that could be washed and re-used,” says Atmore, who tapped into a childhood hobby — sewing — to lend a hand.

After doing some research to learn more about mask construction, Atmore fired up her sewing machine to begin production on homemade masks. Though they are not designated N95, the masks are meant to be used as a last resort, Atmore says. 

“A cotton-blend surface is about 74 percent effective against microbe particles, so I knew if i made a double-layered cotton blend mask, it would be better than nothing at all,” she says, “especially seeing in the media how some nurses were resorting to using scarves and plastic bags.”

In the past week alone, Atmore has sewn together 25 masks — representing 25 hours at the sewing machine — and sent them to her sister, a few friends who are nurses as well as frontline medical workers, police officers and firefighters.

“These people are risking their lives and working overtime — above and beyond their 12-hour shifts — to care for the ill,” she says. “It was important for me to take some type of immediate action.”

All the time at her sewing machine has given Atmore time to think. “This experience has reminded me that one person can make a difference,” she says. “You really can be the change you wish to see in this world, and by taking immediate action, you could help spark action in others.”