in partnership
(Image: Nate Hempstead)

Local teen's 3D printing skills helped local docs with serious mask problems

Since the start of the pandemic, so many people in our community have gone above and beyond to help others. Just a few of the many heartwarming stories that we've shared include The Herbfarm, a gourmet restaurant in Woodinville that pivoted to start serving hot meals to medical staff - and the local couple behind Funkycold Co. who lift people's spirits with their beautiful and delicious cookies, that they donated to Children's Hospital other front line workers.

People of all ages have been pitching in. That includes local teen Nate Hempstead, who put his expertise in 3D printing to use, to help health care professionals keep their face masks safely, firmly (and comfortably) in place while treating patients. Refined caught up [virtually] with Nate and Dr. Neil Siecke, who originally approached Nate for help.

Seattle Refined: Nate Hempstead you’re a senior at Archbishop Murphy High School up in Everett - and you’re also a whiz with the 3D printer. What are some of the things you’ve made with 3D printers over the years?
Nate Hempstead: I made batons for our class, TedX logos, I like making little scale dogs cause they’re super cute.

And recently an adult, a doctor in fact - asked you for help on a project during the pandemic.
The doctor’s name is Dr. Neil Siecke, he’s a good family friend of mine.

Dr. Siecke, you're a cardiologist in Edmonds, that’s a really important job any time but especially during this current health crisis it must be more important than ever. What was going on with you and your masks?
Dr. Neil Siecke: We had a problem, we had to start wearing masks basically anytime we were seeing patients but also when we were in our rooms or talking to our staff. It was grating on our ears and causing sores behind our ears especially if you wore glasses. There was a lot of stress going on during that time and as you can imagine there still is. Instead of focusing on the patient, you’re worried about your ears hurting.

So you had a problem - and you turned to the one person you knew who could solve it who happened to be a teenager!
Dr. Siecke: We turned to Nate. I know he’s done quite a bit of work with 3D printing.

Nate: It’s very important for health care people to have these clips, they’re in-person they’re wearing a mask almost all the time. It’s just so hard on the back of the ears from wearing them, it just hurts after awhile it gives them headaches which can impact - have a significant impact.

Dr. Siecke: I sent him some designs that I saw online.

Nate: I printed a prototype and sent, which took about 30 minutes and it was too short because some of his doctors had big heads! So I had to extend it a little bit.

Dr. Siecke: Nate was kind enough to print out 30 or 40 for us, of the clips, for us and we distributed them to our staff and a couple went to some patients who really needed them. It was really a lifesaver.

How do these face mask clips work?
Nate: You take one end and you put it into the - there’s a little gap over here - you can slide it under then you can put the mask on your face, reach around to the back of your head and just clip it on.

So where are your clips being used right now?
Nate: At the Swedish Hospital Cardiovascular Department over in the Lynnwood area.

What kind of difference did it make for you and your colleagues having these masks clips?
Dr. Siecke: I was so thankful. I had really sore ears, and once we started wearing the clips it just made it a lot easier.

Nate you are a teenage kid and you are already making a huge difference in your community - how does it make you feel?
Nate: It makes me happy to know that something that I have made is out there helping people during this hard time.