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CipherSalutes: A Secret Skill Helps Others Stay Safe During a Pandemic


In the days leading up to Nurses Week (May 6 – 12), CipherHeath will be running a series of “CipherSalutes” spotlighting the unique ways our employees and their families are expressing their gratitude for nurses or doing their part to help others during the crisis. We hope they inspire you to reach out to the front-line healthcare workers in your community to let them know how much they are valued. 


How are you spending time indoors while waiting out the pandemic?

One CipherHealth employee has taken to sewing face masks — in addition to his regular job maintaining our technology as a Systems Engineer. I sat down with Trey Dockery via Slack to find out more about a pastime that he uses to, well, pass time – as well as help others including his Cipher colleagues, stay safe.

It all started with a Slack post:

Slack post for face masks

As an employee based in the epicenter of the virus in New York City (CipherHealth has offices is NYC, San Francisco and Nashville, where Trey is based) I was in need of a cloth mask, as my cotton ones were getting frayed. I became intrigued by his secret skill.

Why sewing? Why masks?

“Back in the day when I was in the Navy you bought your uniforms and the pants were never hemmed, they were really, really long so I learned how to sew so I could have my pants fit.  All of my friends were giving me a hard time that I had a sewing machine and knew how to sew – that is, until they had to replace their uniforms and no one could hem their pants, at which point I became quite popular.

“Over the years I’ve always had a sewing machine (his mom gave him one for Christmas two years ago) so when this virus reared its ugly head, I saw the videos of people making their own masks,  and I made some for the family.  My wife is immunocompromised and some family members have health issues, and my parents are older so I pulled out the sewing machine and made some masks. I posted some pictures of them on Facebook and we have a really strong, active neighborhood association so a few people chimed in and said, I need a mask, My child is sick, or my parents… So I made some for the community.”

table for sewing face maskssewing face masks for COVID-19

When I asked Trey about his process, he said:

“Sewing them up is pretty easy; they’re all the same style. The hard part is getting the pattern cut out correctly, but once the pattern is cut, everything comes together. I’ve been going to the fabric section at Walmart and whatever they have left is what I buy – polka dots, golden yellow (which is the team color for the Nashville Predators hockey team), and orange (for the University of Tennessee), so those are in demand, as well as one of the American flag.

It’s just a few pieces of fabric with something on the nose to make it stick better, and I use women’s hair bands (since elastic is in short supply). I’ve made a couple of different styles so they come out in different sizes which is good, because people have different sized heads.”

How many has he made?

“I started one night while watching a movie – everything was out on the dining room table so I just made some masks as the movie was playing, and I made about 20.”

That’s when Trey decided to post a note on the Cipher Slack channel and make his work available to all employees, because, as he says, “You guys are really in the ground zero of all of this, so let me see if I could send everybody a mask. I started with the people I knew needed them, the people on my team, and then I had extra.”

Girl wearing face maskman wearing face mask

CipherHealth employees sporting their new look during COVID-19.

In total, Trey estimates he’s made close to 100 masks. He’s taken some of them to churches and given them to elderly people.

“Then I watched another movie – and made about 10 more,” he said. “I know that the people asking for them need them and are putting them to good use.”

Good use, indeed. Why is he doing it? Quite simple he says, “Everybody needs a mask”.


See more ways CipherHealth is saluting and acknowledging our nurse heroes and helping their communities in honor of National Nurses Week. 


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