Wiscasset Middle High School eighth grader Sullivan “Sully” Joyce is busy during the pandemic, juggling schoolwork with around-the-clock production of mask extenders, or “ear savers,” for health care workers.
Sully, during a phone interview Saturday, April 25, said he was motivated to act when he learned that, due to a shortage of N95 masks, health care providers must wear surgical masks throughout long shifts, causing ear pain. Mask extenders provide ear protection from the masks.
Determined to help, the Wiscasset teen found a free pattern on the internet and, with his own money from doing yard work, bought the material he needed to make the extenders with his 3D printer.
To date, Sully has made about 200 mask extenders that have been given to the Maine Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, and doctors’ offices. He sent some to his uncle, Dr. Ryan Joyce, an anesthesiologist in Rochester, N.H.
Making each mask requires a significant investment of time, as well as money for materials and other costs. Sully said it takes five hours and 10 minutes to print eight mask extenders. The plastic costs $25 per roll and the work causes wear and tear on the printer, which has broken down once from heavy use.
Sully has received support in his endeavor to make a difference in the COVID-19 pandemic. A friend donated a roll of plastic. An aunt sent him money to defray the costs of raw materials, shipping, and printer repairs.
Sully’s parents are Brendan and Sarah Joyce. “As a family, we have sort of gotten used to the sound of the printer going along 24/7 to print these mask extenders,” they said.
Brendan Joyce is a lieutenant and paramedic with the Portland Fire Department, as well as a firefighter. Sarah Joyce is a microbiologist at Kennebec River Biosciences in Richmond.
Although Sully spends much of his time printing mask extenders, he makes sure his school work is done. In his spare time, he likes to ride his bike and work on remote-control cars.
“Right now, I want to do what I can to help people,” he said.
He wants to be an electrical engineer and is already considering the University of Maine at Orono.
He began making the extenders March 30. “I will continue to make them as long as there is a need for them,” he said.