How it all began
By Sophia Boettcher, PPEforHCP Founder, Lead Donor
It was around Christmastime. We comprised a small group of online-based, misfit biodata scientists who came across a case study of a man who worked at the wet market in Wuhan, China. He and his wife had fallen nearly deathly ill with pneumonia of unknown origin. While they both eventually recovered, the treating physician died. Just around New Year 2020, public health officials announced the discover of a novel virus. I briefly wondered, could this become a pandemic?
Modeling the sparse existing data against previously studied high consequence infectious diseases, the answer was yes. Riffing off Johns Hopkin's Event 201, we entertained a best-case, worse-case scenario to arrive at a plausible R_0 (transmissivity factor). Our numbers came out to 2.2-2.8, which meant the virus wouldn't necessarily "die off" but instead posed a tremendous impact on humanity (the biggest blow over the next two years. At best, 1,000 people could die. At worst, more than 6 million people stood at risk.
As a teenager, I was diagnosed with scleroderma. I fought tooth and nail to reach remission, pouring over thousands of research papers and self-advocating for promising experimental treatments that hospitals and drug companies "weren't allowed" to give me on-label. Before becoming a rare disease advocate, I worked as an engineer at NASA Ames-Singularity University (building a platform for wearables data real-time analytics).
Scleroderma has given me a strong sense of living -- and also thriving -- in harrowing times. It's put me in the unique position to stay hungry for novel solutions to dire human needs. And so, with this newfound life, I'm giving all my effort to give back to the healthcare community that stood in solidarity with me when I needed it most.
Perhaps somewhat aggressively, I began working with doctors to brainstorm creating a multi-threaded supply chain pipeline for PPE shortage mitigation on 12/29/2019. It was really just a thought exercise, fueled by perhaps too much reading online, TED talks, contagion movies, and general time on my hands. Following my instinct, I vetted over 500 suppliers and secured a source of surgical masks overseas on a limited 4-digit budget. I got my hands on a first shipment of 500 masks on March 15. By March 17 I started receiving PPE requests from healthcare workers in the trenches, and also heart-breaking stories of the dire situation they are facing.
Joined by a team of dedicated volunteers, that's how we embarked on our mission: to deliver free PPE to every frontline healthcare worker who requests it and support local community hospitals fighting COVID-19.