How it all began
By Sophia Boettcher, PPEforHCP Founder
As biodata scientists, a group of fellow misfits and I had first found out about a novel coronavirus during Christmas time in 2019, about a man who worked at the wet market in Wuhan, China. He and his wife had become deathly ill with pneumonia of unknown origin. While they both eventually recovered, the treating physician died. Just around New Year 2020, it was announced that a novel virus had been discovered. I briefly wondered -- what if this could be a pandemic?
Modeling the data, the answer was a clear yes. We did the best-case, worst-case scenario of the R_0 (transmissivity factor) and riffed off John Hopkin's Event 201 experiment (which someone had emailed me from a lab). Our numbers came out to 2.2-2.8, which means the virus would not "die off" but instead pose a tremendous impact on humanity, with the biggest blow over the next 2 years. At best, 1,000 people could die. At worst, more than 6 million people.
As a teenager, I was diagnosed with scleroderma. I crawled by tooth and nail to reach remission through pouring over thousands of research papers, and self-advocated for experimental treatments that hospitals and drug companies "weren't allowed" to give me. Before I became a rare disease advocate, I was an engineer who worked at NASA Ames-Singularity University. Now that my community is calling for help -- couldn't I throw some of my newfound life force into the ring?
I immediately began working with doctors who to brainstorm ways to create a multi-threaded pipeline. Following my instinct, I vetted over 500 suppliers and secured a pipeline of surgical masks overseas on a limited 4-digit budget. The response came pouring in; not only requests for PPE from healthcare workers in the trenches right now, but 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, supporting local community hospitals as they stand as our lifeline in fighting COVID-19.