In the Mad Dash for PPE, A Hero Emerges From Within

Think back to March, when the shortage of PPE was at its peak. Our naiveté around the challenges soon to come for our industry was staggering. While that now seems like a lifetime ago, Jewish HomeLife would like to share one untold story that continues to bring light to our team.

Our assisted living community, Berman Commons, was among the first senior living communities in Georgia to have active COVID cases. It was March 20th.

In a heartbeat, what began as a reasonable action plan to begin stockpiling PPE in case we ever needed it became a frantic search to ensure we immediately had enough to protect residents and employees. At the time, we had no idea if these cases would spark a catastrophic outbreak. We have never experienced a more desperate situation than procurement of PPE in the early days of this pandemic.

Then, an email arrived. From a Berman Commons resident’s son who worked in China with a biopharma company. It was March 23rd.  We had just paid $700 per COVID test to complete testing of all the memory care residents and staff. 43 tests in total. We had also just agreed to pay $11 per N95 mask from a supplier we had never used and who had charged a fraction of that in September. It was desperate times. And we needed a miracle.

“I can send over disposable surgical masks and disposable surgical suits….the masks that I am getting are part of a much larger sourcing that my company is doing in China to provide personal protection equipment to frontline sales staff, manufacturing staff and hospital workers around the world. We’re shipping around 3 million per week to the US. They meet the standards for our manufacturing and our hospitals.”

The family member sent a test shipment to ensure it would get through customs. Thankfully all went well, so he put in our larger order. Then, shortly after midnight on April 1st, another email from our family member…

“We’re a little bit short of miracles today…the outgoing Fedex shipment of N-95 masks, surgical masks and gowns was blocked at customs in China this morning. There was a change in Chinese regulations yesterday regarding the export of N-95 masks. This impacts the ones in my small shipment as well as the millions of masks that we’re trying to ship back to the US manufacturing sites.”

After some discussion with FedEx and his internal supply chain team, he found a solution for us. We received everything a week later, and it felt like manna from heaven. His help in facilitating those early shipments enabled us to protect our staff and maintain an ample supply. It also allowed us to take a breath. Finally.

I know everyone can relate to the struggle in the early days with getting PPE, and we appreciate all Don Shulman and the AJAS team did to help members like Jewish HomeLife. Thankfully, Berman Commons very quickly contained the virus and stopped the spread. The lessons we learned during that early period have benefitted all our communities.

We all have stories of heroes that emerged during this unprecedented time. This resident’s family has asked to stay anonymous, but we will never forget what they did. Sharing their story now with our AJAS colleagues is just a small way we can recognize their contribution to protecting our most vulnerable loved ones.

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