An Unlikely COVID-19 Hero: Gabriel Grais

Gabriel Grais, Class of 2020, drops off 35

Benjamin Grais

Gabriel Grais, Class of 2020, drops off 35 “ear savers” at the Lincolnwood Police Department

By Alli Lipsit, Staff Writer

As we all know, the world is facing some difficult times right now. As the country shuts down almost every public accommodation and warns people to shut themselves in their homes to protect themselves and others, we must not forget all the people considered essential workers, who do not get to take these precautions, but instead, are risking their lives on the front lines every day.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have medical licenses, so we can’t offer more helping hands on deck to relieve these workers from their stressful shifts.

However, one Niles West senior has managed to find a way to help out these essential workers with, not a medical license…but a 3D printer.

Senior Gabriel Grais decided to start a project using the equipment he has at home to help essential workers who wear uncomfortable masks for extended periods of time.

Grais printed 25 “ear savers,” but he wasn’t stopping there. In fact, Grais printed another 35 straps and delivered them to the chief of police in Lincolnwood on April 16.

So what are these “ear savers” Grais is creating?

“These pieces attach to either side of a surgical mask, reducing the irritation caused by the mask’s ear straps,” Grais said.

Grais got his motivation for the project from his aunt, who works for Northshore University Health System.

According to Gabriel’s father, who is also a school counselor at West, Dr. Benjamin Grais, “My sister [Gabriel’s aunt] mentioned how the straps on the mask were chafing behind the ears of the health care providers she works with at Northshore. Once he heard this, he began printing five “ear savers” at a time. After the first day or two of printing, Gabriel was able to give my sister 25 of these straps.”

“I started printing these ‘ear savers’ after my aunt, who works at Evanston Hospital, shared a link to a similar project. She described how irritated the staff’s ears were getting after wearing N95 masks all day, and she knew that I owned a 3D printer. Many people have shared their designs for these “ear savers” on the free 3D model hosting platform, Thingiverse.com, so I was able to get printing right away. I had a lot of free time due to the shelter-in-place order, so I ran my printer non-stop, only pausing for Zoom calls (the printer is LOUD),” Grais explained.

Many nurses, doctors, police officers, and other essential workers have been sharing photos online of the marks, cuts, and bruises these masks leave on the workers’ faces after just one shift.

“We often have to wear the masks for several hours at a time, not even getting to take them off when we aren’t treating the patients. We only get to take them off for an hour, sometimes thirty minutes during our lunch break,” one frontline worker from St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, Linh Quach, said.

Grais hopes to continue making more and actually has a pretty efficient way of doing it. His family’s investment in his 3-D printing hobby has evolved into what some might call heroic service.

“As his father, I am incredibly proud of Gabriel. He has always been a caring young man, looking after the needs of the people in his family. Thus, it doesn’t surprise me that when there was a need in the community, he answered the call,” Dr. Grais said.

Grais’ acts of kindness prove that there are ways we can work together to slow this virus and protect the people who are risking their lives to keep us safe.