I usually write blog posts for respiratory therapists and clinicians who practise in other specialities. Occasionally, I write for the general public and this is one of them.
Masks are a hot topic right now. The view on masks for the public has changed over the course of the pandemic. On a personal note, I have been wearing surgical masks throughout my shift since the start of COVID19. N95 masks were used when directly caring for individuals with COVID19. While they are still uncomfortable for me, I have gotten used to the uncomfortable feeling. Off duty, I wear cotton masks when in crowded and indoor spaces.
There are some cases that exempt people from wearing masks, and this blog is not focusing on that population. For everyone else, wearing masks is recommended based on our current information and data. Some argue that forcing people to wear them is against their rights. I like to encourage those people to look at it from different perspectives. You hold the power to make a difference. I am going to give you four examples. These people come to the hospital I work at for diagnostic testing and other respiratory care. They are NOT based on any specific person or people for legal reasons, but a representation of patients who frequently come to see me for testing.
Kelly is a neonatal nurse who has severe asthma. She has fought through all the limitations caused by her uncontrolled severe asthma despite optimized respiratory care. That has not stopped her. She finished her studies and found a job. She is happy and proud that she can help kids. That’s her passion and she feels blessed. By wearing masks we limit the transfers of the virus, and we protect people like Kelly. If Kelly gets sick, it would be a much tougher fight and a longer recovery for her.
Tom is a retired firefighter. Despite best practices and equipment, he was still exposed to occupational irritants. Tom, a lifetime non-smoker who had to retire early because of a lung condition called COPD. Tom has a few newborn grandchildren. He loves them and wants to live a long life to see them grow. He wants to spend time with them and make memories. People with COPD may have a challenging time with viral infections and may require invasive and supportive respiratory care.
Mary is a single mom with fibrotic lungs. The factory she has been working at for the past 10 years didn’t have the best ventilation at the beginning. That led to permanent changes in her lungs. She is financially dependent on her job. Mary needs to manage and protect her lungs so she can provide for her family. COVID19 may lead to additional negative changes to damaged lungs.
Mike is in second grade. He has been receiving treatments to manage his cystic fibrosis for some time now. He loves visiting his grandfather and watching him fix cars. He wants to grow up and be just like him. Catching a viral respiratory disease may cause a big set back in Mike’s respiratory care.
The people I have mentioned did not choose what has happened to them, but we can choose to wear a mask and use that power to protect others. We are in this together.
August 22, 2020
As always, this is my personal opinion and reflection. Follow the guidelines and instructions provided by your employer and the public health organizations in your province/county.