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Charlotte Dr. Lakesha Legree leads Mask A Hero initiative
Campaign brings PPE to coronavirus fight
Published Monday, April 13, 2020 5:35 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Charlotte anesthesiologist Dr. Lakesha Legree is spearheading the Mask A Hero initiative to provide personal protective equipment to medical professionals treating patients infected by novel coronavirus.

Dr. Lakesha Legree is taking a mother’s concern to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Charlotte anesthesiologist and founder/medical director of Elev8 MD Wellness Center is also among a group of female physicians who saw the national shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and decided to do something about it. Mask a Hero is a nationwide campaign designed to provide healthcare workers with the tools they need to combat the virus.

While discussing the national shortage of PPE with New York-based anesthesiologists Dr. Michelle Kars and Dr. Emily Levin, the concept for the campaign was born.

“It began with a conversation between myself and other female physicians who are also moms,” Legree said. “We were discussing the national shortage and how it made us feel personally with respect to being a physician and having taken an oath to care for our patients, but at the same time facing this fear of if I contract the virus, what if I pass it on to my children?”

Legree was left feeling angry and in a state of disbelief that this was even an issue.

“After researching myself, as well as other colleagues who are in hospital infrastructures, researching how to get these masks, we said we had no choice but to take matters into our own hands,” Legree said.

Initially, it was a matter of purchasing the masks themselves, but price gouging proved problematic. Legree bought 10 masks at $200 for Elev8staff. It left her astonished by the upcharge.

“I even posted about it, ‘saying, is this really what we’re coming to, America? We’re price gouging masks now, which are essential for physicians to take care of the general public,’” she said. “That sparked the fire in me to create a charity in me called Mask a Hero.”

The #MaskAHero campaign on social media asks people to donate unused N95 coverings or sponsor a mask through monetary donation. Healthcare professionals can also request a mask on the campaign website. The initiative not only protects healthcare workers, but their families. It allows parents, like Legree, to go return home after work with a greater sense of comfort.

“We were having the same sort of conversations about being afraid to go home to our children after work,” she said.

The campaign’s launch point took place last month.

“We currently have eight state subsidiaries: New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Louisiana, Iowa, and now Canada reached out to be part to be part of the initiative,” Legree said.

Legree hopes to see support from larger organizations here in Charlotte.

“What would really be a dream is if people would rally around our doctors and nurses and give a large monetary donation so that we could help blanket the whole hospital,” she said.

Legree opened the Elev8 location in South Charlotte in January 2019. The practice specializes in Ketamine infusions for rejuvenation, addressing symptoms of exhaustion, anxiety and depression.  Business has not slowed during the pandemic, as people try to cope with uncertainty. Legree noted she’s seeing those issues among healthcare workers, who can visit Elev8 for a free consultation.

“They are faced with the pressures of caring for patients in a high-volume environment,” Legree said. “There’s the stress at work. There’s the worry of ‘if I don’t have what I need to protect myself, am I going to contract COVID-19.’ There’s the stress of “how do I test everyone if there’s a national shortage of tests?’”

As a mom, Legree feels compelled to take extra precautions. Being a physician comes with more stress than ever.

“As soon as I get home, I strip in the garage, and I go straight to the shower,” Legree said. “I don’t interact with my family until I’ve taken the shower. I have friends who have quarantined themselves in their own homes. You don’t have time to deal with the anxiety, because you have to keep showing up for the community. I’ve had quite a few new patients come to my doors because of that.”

Legree offers three pieces of advice for healthcare professionals navigating the days ahead.

“No. 1 is be true to yourself, with respect to loving yourself so fiercely that you do whatever it is you need to do obtain protective equipment, such as an N95 respirator mask, so they can at least have a little bit of confidence knowing when they interact with a possibly positive COVID-19 patient that they are protected,” she said.

“No. 2: Be hypervigilant about safety and cleanliness, which we already know as physicians, but just being hypervigilant about handwashing, sanitizing, and being conscientious about wearing protective gowns on top of your scrubs—being conscientious about always wearing gloves.

“No. 3 is to be aware of their mental, and give themselves a little bit of grace knowing that anxiety is going to come, but what you do with the anxiety will make the difference between being able to continue to show up every day and serve your community, or breaking down and perhaps falling on the slippery slope of paralyzing anxiety that is fueled by fear and uncertainty, and then you can’t show up every day, because you physically aren’t able to.”

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