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Two St. Cloud nurses on a mission help design a face shield

Ashley O'Connell & Kayla Waldoch set out to help workers in nursing homes and small clinics.

MINNEAPOLIS — The small factory in North Minneapolis was about as far from an operating room as one could get.

But no more, thanks to two nurses.

“I'm a labor and delivery nurse,” Ashley O’Connell says.

“I am also a labor and delivery nurse at the St. Cloud Hospital,” Kayla Waldoch says.

The pair of nurses working on the same St. Cloud Hospital floor, just gave birth to something big.

“We got this, we can do this,” Kayla says.

Both nurses are worried about shortages of personal protective equipment – especially concerned for their nursing colleagues in small clinics and nursing homes without the procuring power of a larger hospital like theirs.

On Facebook they found Adam Hagen.

Adam's company, Prime Manufacturers, normally makes industrial vacuum devices and LED lighting for boats.

But now, his machines are turning out face shields for doctors and nurses, co-designed by Adam and the St. Cloud nurses.

“So, we're like, “We can make anything if you tell us what to make,” Adam says.

The process wasn’t exactly that simple.

“He's had to endure a lot of my opinions coming at him,” Ashley says.

Adam and Ashley emailed back and forth, until they agreed on a design that would be functional, comfortable, and safe in a healthcare environment.

“New picture, new design, new picture, new design - back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” Adam says, before adding, “We've never met to this day.”

Not one part of the shield came from a medical device company.

“Screws, Menards. Gaskets, Menards,” Adam says. “You know, shout out to Menards,” he laughs.

Just a week into the process, the first two boxes of shields are ready for shipping.

“Some of it is doctors just buying the stuff for their own staff, out of their own pocket,” Russ Strahota, Prime Manufacturers’ co-owner, says.

Rather than laying off, Russ and Adam now expect to add workers, as they ramp up to produce 1200 shields a day.

On Tuesday, Stephanie Youngren, Adam's girlfriend, helped assemble the shields.

Before her lay-off from the Mall of America Macy’s, she worked as a make-up artist.

“I would rather be helping out than sitting by myself at home,” she says.  

The nurses have created a GoFundMe page to help pay for the shields’ raw materials.

They expect that the small nursing homes and clinics they are trying to help will be cash-strapped as they desperately seek protective equipment for their workers.

“I think when you go into nursing, you're going into it because you want to help,” Kayla says. “Teaming up, we're going to get some stuff done.”

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