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Sentara nurses make clear face masks to communicate with hearing-impaired, first-time father

Staff at Sentara went the extra mile to make sure both of baby Cooper's parents didn’t miss anything.

NORFOLK, Va. — Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing face masks has become the new normal. But for people who rely on lip-reading for communication, the face masks make that impossible. 

First-time father William Mckendree found himself in this position when he and his wife Jennifer Mckendree were preparing for the birth of their daughter.

Mckendree is deaf and relies on cued speech and lip-reading to communicate.

“They [medical staff] would talk to me, and then he would kind of sit and wait and then I would have to translate to him what they were saying,” Jennifer Mckendree said.

So nurses at Sentara sprang into action.

“They went above and beyond,” William Mckendree said.

Nurse managers Paige Crunk and Reagan Boomer explained: Lori, one of their nurses, created masks with clear mouth coverings to accommodate lip reading.

“She said I’ve got my sewing machine so if you bring me the materials, I’ll see what I can do. I know how to make a mask," Boomer said. 

"So Lori went to work on her sewing machine.”

She made enough face masks for all of the Mckendrees' nurses.

Crunk said they wanted to make sure William Mckendree felt included.

“A birth of a child is a very memorable event and you never forget it. You never forget who was in your home or what was said, and how it was said," Crunk said.

It was a moment that brought William Mckendree to tears.

“When they came through the door with this, I was like, ‘Wow!’ They didn’t have to do this, but they did it," he said. "It was very touching to hear that it was for us.”

It’s a story that’s been shared hundreds of times across social media after Sentara officials posted a photo on Facebook.

“We just feel fortunate in this time to be able to spread a good story that people are grabbing onto and appreciating it as much as we do," Jennifer Mckendree said. 

"When people respond to it or share it with us it’s just…”

Wiliam Mckendree finished for her: “It’s just to share with them that we are not alone in this process.”

Their daughter Cooper was born three weeks ago.

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