ORLANDO, FLA. — While I'm certainly not shipping off to Africa anytime soon, I got a taste of what medical professionals go through in the fight against Ebola and other infectious diseases, and how plastics keep them safe right here at NPE 2015.
The Vinyl Saves Lives exhibit (South Hall Lobby) at NPE 2015 in Orlando demonstrates the role plastics, particularly PVC, plays in patient care. It also showcases the protection of medical personnel with a full portable medical isolation and containment unit, similar to those used in Africa and elsewhere in the fight to contain potential pandemics like Ebola and SARS.
A collection of protective suits used in the field are on display, and I tried one on to get a feel for the Ebola-fighting experience. It took three people — not even following proper FDA or international protocols — to help me in and out of the yellow Chemex 1 full body suit and hood, made by Lakeland Industries Inc., one of the Vinyl Saves Lives sponsors. Then came the boots and gloves, which would be duct-taped at the seams in the field (though thankfully the Vinyl Saves Lives gang and the American Red Cross spared me that realistic detail). With the addition of reusable goggles and mask, I was more or less equipped for exposure to a deadly disease.
My goggles started to fog up almost immediately. The sweating soon followed. I wasn't in the suit for a full 10 minutes and I was already sweaty, uncomfortable and itching for my freedom. And that's standing around in the air conditioned Orange County Convention Center, not trying to administer medication or do an exam under a blazing African sun in a high-pressure situation.
Health care workers are only permitted to spend an hour in full protective gear, during which they usually lose nearly a gallon of water in perspiration.