I want to talk about mask-wearing.
I know some of you have legitimate reasons for not wearing one, but many of you don’t. And there are some out there who are using those legitimate reasons (even when they don’t apply to them) as an excuse to just not wear a mask or to harass and upset those who choose to.
I want to talk about this from my point of view.
I have two clinically vulnerable children, so to me, you wearing a mask could be the difference between life and death.
That’s how I feel. Yes, I’ve seen the blogs you post on Facebook telling me kids can’t catch COVID-19—but that’s a lie. And well, with as little offense as I can manage, I’d like to say sorry (not sorry), but I’ll take my children’s medical team’s advice over yours.
Firstly, I have no idea if you have any actual expertise or training in this matter. And secondly, even if you do, at this point you know nothing about my children’s medical conditions, so even with all the degrees in the world, you couldn’t know exactly what I’m going through.
Not even my little boy’s medical team knows the full extent of the risk this virus causes, as his form of epilepsy is rare and we have no idea how he might respond. What we do know is that a high temperature brings on 12-minute seizures, and COVID-19 is showing signs of effecting us neurologically, so the impact on him could be even more dangerous. This is not an experiment I wish to undertake with my child just to see which one of us is right!
Whilst we are going down this route, let me reassure you that I am no sheep and greatly resent that term being bandied around. Anybody who knows me knows I’m a nightmare when it comes to others telling me what to do. I never take someone’s word for it; I research and look at all my options before making a choice.
I’m my doctor’s worst nightmare because I do not always follow advice, so when I say please wear a mask, it’s not because I think everyone should just do as they’re told. It’s purely because when it comes to the lives of my children, I want to take whatever reasonable steps I can to keep them safe.
Wearing a mask whilst walking around a shop, combined with keeping our distance from others, are small, not-too-intrusive things we can do to keep our vulnerable community members safe. No one is asking us to wear them all the time (like we do our clothes, which, by the way, does seem to be just because we are told to—at least when it’s hot!), and I’m aware that doing so won’t stop the risk of the virus completely, but it does help, like how wearing a seat belt and not drinking and driving increases our chances of being safe in a car.
There are some who claim to suffer panic attacks and find it hard to breathe in a mask. I feel for you—I really do, because imagine that every time you go out your front door, you remember vividly your own child struggling to breathe. Not just feeling like she is struggling to breathe, but seeing her oxygen saturation continuing to fall and landing at 81 percent, even though she is on the highest amount of oxygen and is being nebulised back-to-back. Imagine that all you can do as a mama bear is hold her hand, pray that she will be okay, breathe even though you feel you can’t, and stay as calm as humanly possible so she will only pick up calm vibes.
I remember clearly the look in the consultant’s eyes as she held my hand and asked me if I was worried. I calmly said yes, but as I responded, the calm broke—just for a moment—to show the fear and distress beneath. She noticed and quickly realized we didn’t need to have an in-depth discussion about what we were facing that night. Instead, she looked me straight in the eye, nodded, and said, “Yes, so am I.” We both knew in just that short exchange that we could be facing the thing no doctor or parent wants to face.
Thankfully, something worked and my little girl stabilised that night. But every damn time I leave the house, I remember that moment. When you get too close and breathe on us, I remember that moment. When you shout all over Facebook about how you will not wear your mask, and you will not keep your distance because you don’t believe this virus exists, I remember that moment.
So whilst a mask may make you feel uncomfortable or overheated or like it’s hard to breathe, for most of you (but not all, and I feel I need to state here again that this is not directed at those with legitimate reasons for not wearing a mask) that your perception is nothing compared to someone’s real struggle for breath—the struggle of someone who might need to be ventilated, who might have a seizure that stops their heart and lungs so that they have no chance to struggle for breath. For these people, it’s over in a moment.
Yes, you might feel like you’re going to have a panic attack because you’ve been asked to wear a mask, but that’s exactly how I feel about you choosing not to wear one. Because I have lived through sitting next to my child wondering if she will make it to the morning, watching her genuinely struggle to breathe, even with the support. Because I have sat whilst my child has terrifying seizures, and discussed with a doctor whether it was actually a seizure or a stroke. Because I face a future wondering what impact this time will have on my children. Because I know our story is not the worst one out there, by far, and some are struggling with even more.
Because of all this, I choose to wear a mask when I walk into a shop. Because of all this, I ask that if you are capable of doing so, please wear a mask for the time it takes for you to go shopping. Because of all this, I ask that if you’re not going to wear a mask that you keep your distance—as far as you possibly can—from us and others.
Because of this, I ask that you please stop shaming those who do choose the compassionate option of wearing a mask just because you have chosen not to. Leave us to make the safest choice for ourselves, our families, and others, and please also leave enough space so we feel safe from you.