Dani Stufft, Cathy Swope, Amanda Griffith, Carmen Letzo, Misty Box and Bre Hody

Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center ICU nurses wearing their new caps are (from left) Dani Stufft, Cathy Swope, Amanda Griffith, Carmen Letzo, Misty Box and Bre Hody.

While people in the region are busy making masks, a group of women are coming together to sew surgical caps for nurses at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.

Carmen Letzo, an intensive care nurse at Conemaugh, said a monetary donation was made by the the local chapter of American Association of Critical-Care Nurses to Conemaugh nurses to help with personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

“A group of nurses got together and decided that surgical caps that are washable and reusable probably be would be the best idea,” the Westmont resident said. “One of the nurses, her mom is a seamstress, and one of our nurse aides is seamstress, so these two ladies ordered material and they starting making them as quickly as they could.”

Letzo said because about 52 nurses need caps, additional help was needed, so she reached out to a neighbor who has been sewing and donating masks.

“She took it upon herself to contact some more ladies who have all volunteered to get this going as quickly as possible while we’re still in the need for it,” she said. 

The fabric caps cover the head and are designed for those with longer hair to cover a ponytail.

“It does give the feeling of added protection to be able to wear a head covering all day,” Letzo said.

So far, about 30 caps have been made and distributed to nurses.

“We would like to get every nurse at least two caps then that way if they work two shifts in a row they wouldn’t have to do their laundry immediately that night,” Letzo said.

Shelley Johansson said she and Letzo live in the same neighborhood and are friends on Facebook, and Letzo had seen the masks she was making for those in need.

“She (Letzo) got in touch and said they needed these surgical caps and showed me a picture,” the Westmont resident said. “I went looking for a pattern online that would be useful for them and something I felt I could make.”

Johansson said they settled on a pattern, and Letzo dropped fabric off at her house.

“Once I made one I had Carmen come over, and she stood on my porch and tried it on and it was what she needed,” she said.

From there, Johansson recruited some friends who sew to get started on the project.

“I knew we could do this, anything that we can do to make this time a tiny bit more safe and help the nurses who are dealing with this in a very up close and personal way,” she said.

Since Monday, Johansson has completed eight caps, with another friend sewing five. She also has links of fabric out to two other people who sew.

“I’ve mailed some to my mom who sews. She is not local, but is super happy to have something to do to help,” she said.

When caps are completed, Johansson leaves them on her porch for Letzo to pick up.

“My hope is the nurses feel that people care about what they are going through and we are acknowledging the extra risk that they are taking to take care of these people who have become ill with this awful disease,” she said. “I feel kind of lucky that I happen to have a skill where I can tangibly do something. To have some little thing that I can do and offer has been a great blessing to me.”

Patton resident Elizabeth Lantzy learned of the need for the caps through her daughter, who is an ICU nurse at Conemaugh.

“They were expressing concern of needing added layers of protection, so that’s when I got on board and said show me what you want and I will make as many as I can,” she said.

Lantzy said she’s been sewing all her life and it’s something she enjoys.

“I started making these caps about two weeks ago and made about 30 so far,” she said. “I also made some masks, and now they’re looking for me to make those because they have to wear them all the time.”

Lantzy said she wanted to help because she has much respect for nurses and what they are doing.

“I see what my daughter does everyday, not just when she’s dealing with COVID-19 patients, and it inspires me,” she said. “I’m one of those displaced workers. I work in the dental field and we can’t open our office, so I have extra time on my hands. It’s nice to know these are going somewhere where they need it and they all are so appreciative.”

The hope is the caps help the nurses feel more secure.

“There are people in the general community who respect them and appreciate what they do everyday,” Lantzy said. “It’s some little way that I can help and that makes me feel good.”

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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