Written by: Audrey Cheng & Jennifer Chien
Translation by Diana Chang
Edited by Dilber Shatursun
When Tzu Chi Medical Foundation CEO Dr. William Keh received a shipment of 240 N95 respirators from Tzu Chi Northeast, he placed a call to Ken Larsen. In little over an hour, Mr. Larsen had arrived at their office in Alhambra with a special mission: to find N95 respirators for his daughter Heather, an intensive care unit nurse at the Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, CA.
Since the pandemic began, Valley Presbyterian has had an influx of patients infected with the new coronavirus. Throughout the entire hospital, including the ICU where Heather works, there have been a limited number of N95 respirators available for staff. The direness of these shortages were made even more clear when two of her fellow nurses tested positive for the virus.
Facing risk of infection every time Heather reported for work, her father Ken was intent on making sure his daughter and her colleagues were safe. He began looking up and reaching out to every resource he could find to get a hold of some N95s, to no avail. That is, until, a family friend suggested he try reaching out to Tzu Chi.
Tim Chang is a legal counsel for Tzu Chi USA. When he learned of Ken’s search, he directed him to the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation’s request form, where requests could be made on behalf of institutions in need of personal protective equipment. On the day the personal protective equipment came in, Tim had arrived, too, along with his sister-in-law, Lynn Huang. They looked on as Ken grasped a box of N95s, teary eyed.
Dr. Keh also expressed his gratitude to those Tzu Chi volunteers in New York who made this shipment possible.
Lynn showed a photo from her phone; in it, were two young ladies with vibrant smiles. One was Heather. The other, was a colleague of hers that had passed from COVID-19. The promise of the PPE and the threat healthcare workers faced without it was too real; it was a dramatic reminder of life’s fragility.