Sometimes, heroes really do wear masks.
That might be the best way to characterize Dr. Fuqin Liu during this coronavirus pandemic. Liu, an associate professor in TWU’s College of Nursing in Denton, has assembled a large cadre of North Texans to help collect badly needed personal protective equipment for health care professionals who are responding to the crisis.
“We hear cries for help, but not every healthcare system is responding,” said Liu, who frequently donates her time to assist the medically underserved.
Liu, a Chinese American, learned about the COVID-19 crisis early on because her brother works as an ICU nurse in China. Aware of what was to come in America, Liu became vigilant in supporting healthcare professionals and their needs in the United States.
She knew the need for medical equipment during the global pandemic would escalate quickly and spearheaded an effort to create DFW CARE (Chinese American Relief for Epidemic), which raises funds and collects and distributes critical protective gear to area medical facilities. The organization thus far has raised more than $100,000 and delivered $30,000 worth of equipment: 26,000 pairs of gloves, 4,500 masks and 1,000 face shields.
Liu reached out for help on March 17 using WeChat, a social media app popular within the Chinese culture, after speaking to a student whose medical facility would soon be in urgent need of protective equipment.
Within a half hour, the WeChat group swelled to more than 100 members. A week later, the group grew to 500. Among those in it are more than 50 members who volunteered to distribute equipment. The organization has been working virtually nonstop with teams dedicated to everything from assessing needs to delivering essential equipment, some of it to facilities as far away as Oklahoma.
“I would consider this a grassroots movement that has quickly turned into a little machine working together and running well,” said Liu. “Everyone is so devoted. I would have never expected that it would grow to this size, but I think it’s commendable how everyone has worked together.”
Many volunteers, who themselves must wear protective equipment, know only how one another look with their masks on.
“I’ve never seen people so motivated,” said Liu. “I don’t know most of them, but the whole community is really caring and concerned.”
DFW CARE has delivered to eight different hospitals, including UT Southwestern Medical Center and the VA North Texas Health Care System in Dallas.
Liu said members are aware of questions that may arise about whether they are disrupting the supply chain by delivering the equipment. In many cases, the group is merely connecting medical facilities with existing vendors. In others, they are leveraging personal contacts in China and other source countries to find badly needed equipment some facilities can’t wait for through the supply chain.
“We are not only racing against time, but bureaucracy. This is serious. This is real,” said Liu. “We are working out of compassion and concern for the health and safety of front-line health care providers.”