‘I wanted to say thank you’: Montgomery Co. man makes PPE for health care workers

Dr. James Gregory Jolissaint wears one of the masks made by Eugene Polishchuk. (Courtesy Dr. James Gregory Jolissaint)

A Montgomery County, Maryland, software engineer turned a 3D printer he bought to make toys for his children into a machine that helps those on the front lines of the coronavirus health emergency.

The pandemic hit close to home for Eugene Polishchuk, of Bethesda. A friend of his who works in the health care field has lost three colleagues.

“This thing is real. It’s here. Just look at the numbers in Montgomery County. It’s staggering,” Polishchuk said.

By Wednesday afternoon, 20,849 cases and 985 deaths had been recorded by the Maryland Department of Health. Montgomery County had 4,152 confirmed cases and 218 deaths.

A self-described “maker,” Polishchuk turned his 3D printer into a personal protective equipment-making machine.

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In late March, he found information on Masks for Docs and read about the needs at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring.

Polishchuk immediately packed up the PPE he had already made and dropped them off.

The feedback he got was so positive that now he has two more printers.

Polishchuk is making plastic face shields and accessories to make face masks more comfortable. He also started making respirators for masks.

“I’m not doing anything unique here,” he said, explaining that a large maker community online has members exchanging patterns and ideas, making tweaks to improve them.

Polishchuk said he is not innovating; “I’m just trying to help out.”

In addition to Holy Cross Hospital, he has delivered masks and face shields to Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center, UM Prince George’s Hospital Center and some local doctors’ offices.

Polishchuk started a GoFundMe page to help with some of the expenses, and while he has received positive feedback on his work, he said, “I don’t have any plans to turn this into a business.”

Dr. James Gregory Jolissaint, vice president for the Military Veterans Health Program for Trinity Health, is also at Holy Cross Hospital’s Incident Management Team, supporting its COVID-19 operations. He is a big fan of the shields and masks that Polishchuk is making.

Jolissaint said the face shields typically worn by health care workers are often thrown away after one use.

“The kind of face shields that Eugene is making for us are designed to be sturdier. They fit your head better, and you can clean them off and continue to use them,” Jolissaint said. And there’s an added benefit: “They are more comfortable.”

Polishchuk also found a design for something to help make face masks easier to wear for long periods of time. The typical face mask has elastic loops that fit behind the ears, which can be irritating when worn during long shifts.

Polishchuk found a design for plastic extenders that are placed along the back of the head. Instead of putting the elastic loops behind the wearer’s ears, the loops are placed around small plastic bars on the extender.

“He is just doing amazing work in support of Holy Cross,” Jolissaint said.

Polishchuk has been told that the health care community is grateful for the work he is doing creating PPE for them, and he returns the sentiment to them.

“I want to say thank you to all the medical workers … because what we’re doing is nothing compared to what they’re going through.”

See the 3D printers in action in the video below:

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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