Veronica Marella was setting up an OR with a coworker when 10 instrument trays arrived from sterile processing. Ms. Marella, a certified surgical technologist at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., began to remove blue wrap from the trays, checking for holes and strikethroughs. She happened to glance over at her colleague as he was tossing mounds of the used material into the trash.
"I thought, if all this wrap is being wasted, maybe I can do something with it," she recalls.
Ms. Marella rubbed a piece of the soft polypropylene plastic between her fingers. She knew the material repels water, is durable and retains heat, and thought back to her past career as a deputy sheriff when she saw homeless people with nothing between them and the hard ground except newspaper or cardboard.
The flicker of an idea danced in her head. Ms. Marella set aside two pieces of wrap and took them home later that night. A plan began to take shape as she held the four-foot squares out in front of her. She carefully folded the two pieces in half, sandwiched one inside the other and stitched the edges together around all four sides. In a matter of minutes, she'd produced the prototype for a blue wrap sleeping mat that would eventually be handed out to thousands of homeless individuals across the country. To make the mat easier to carry, she attached elastic loops on one end so it could be rolled up like a yoga mat. (See how Ms. Marella creates the sleeping mats by watching her instructional video: osmag.net/xH9qUQ.)