Jerry and Wendi Stephens could have made a little extra money. They made a difference instead.
“It was so unexpected and wonderful,” Dr. Jules Madrigal said. “And needed.”
The Stephens, who own Collision Express in Marble Falls, purchased a shipping container several months ago. Inside, they found several boxes of protective medical gear, including N95 face masks and latex gloves. As the demand for the masks increases across the country, the couple could have sold them, but Jerry Stephens didn’t see the point in that.
“We didn’t pay for them, they were just in the container,” he said. “So we decided to give them to Dr. Madrigal.”
Like many doctors in the medical profession, Madrigal has struggled to get N95 masks, which block at least 95 percent of airborne particles. She did get handmade mask covers from Melinda Savage of Atkins Pharmacy in Marble Falls. Savage and members of the Creative Hearts sewing group at First Baptist Church of Marble Falls have been making handmade masks for health care workers. Wearing a handmade mask over a N95 respirator could extend its lifespan.
Still, it wasn’t the best arrangement.
Madrigal explained that not having proper protective gear puts medical staff and patients at risk and could shut down a doctor’s office for two weeks due to quarantines.
“When we see people who are sick, if they have COVID or are later diagnosed with it, we have to shut our office for two weeks if we don’t have the proper protective gear,” she said. “That’s two weeks where we can’t see patients and take care of people. That’s a long time if you’re someone who needs to see us.
“The Stephens just allowed us to keep working,” Madrigal added.
It goes even further. A challenge for Madrigal is finding a true small N95 mask. She said you usually can’t find one in that size. In the Stephens’ shipping container were five boxes of smalls.
“It was truly a God thing,” Madrigal said. “You can’t find smalls, and that’s what I wear. To find them in there, that was a miracle.”
As well as being a private practice doctor, Madrigal also serves as the Burnet County Local Health Authority, working alongside local officials to slow the spread of COVID-19.
She said people are working hard behind the scenes to protect the public.
“I’m blown away how much community leaders have done to get ready for this,” she said. “I know a lot of people don’t see the work being done or what’s going on to get ready for COVID, but it’s happening. There’s a lot of us who probably haven’t slept more than a few hours, it feels like, since this all started.”
Madrigal added that it still takes everyone doing their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19. That means people taking care of their health and limiting travel outside of their homes. If they must go somewhere, they should follow proper safety precautions and social distancing.
Residents wanting to help those on the front lines, such as medical professionals and first responders, can do something as simple as dropping off coffee or lunch or donating needed supplies. Health care workers are being asked not to travel, even to the grocery store, to keep them as safe as possible.
“So, if you can, maybe, go get groceries for them or something like that. That would be amazing,” Madrigal said. “We have a patient right now who is bringing us a case of eggs. That’s huge to us since we can’t go out.”
She added that acts of kindness to each other, not just first responders and health care workers, are also needed.
“Kind words can go a long way,” Madrigal said. “Any acts of kindness you can do and just being kind. Those are things we can all do.”
For more on how COVID-19 is affecting the Highland Lakes, visit the Dailytrib.com coronavirus resources webpage.