Wearing a Mask

As I reach the bottom of the stairs, I yank off the mask. The pedal bin lid clangs with mutual relish as I drop it forcefully in. And I greedily inhale glorious sinus and lung-filling breaths of fresh tingling air as I step outside at the end of the day.

I’m not one of those healthcare professionals who work in intensive care, dressed up in space suits of infection control, but I have been wearing a mask for eight and a half hours, apart from a couple of breaks to eat or grab a drink.

I’ve got used to clamping the nose bridge as tight as possible to prevent my glasses steaming up – and I’m mostly successful, except when I’ve come in from cold weather to warm building. I’ve almost got used to the scratchiness of the stitching over my cheekbones. But it’s hard to get used to the soreness behind my ears caused by the combination of mask elastic, glasses arm, and goggles weight (when I’m seeing patients) that builds up increasingly quickly as the day progresses. Sometimes I worry that I might be developing a pressure ulcer there.

We change our masks more frequently now so at least I don’t have to put up with the stale smell that builds up otherwise over the day. And I’m grateful that I’m not getting the daily headaches anymore.

I don’t like wearing a mask. It creates a psychological as well as a physical barrier between me and my patients. Deaf patients struggle to hear me on the phone so I have to assess through a relative. Home visits take longer as we don and doff PPE at the beginning and end. I’m always conscious of the mask covering half my face and having to work at gestures and non verbal communication through my eyes and eyebrows to compensate. Gone are the days of discussing patients’ concerns over a cup of tea in a relaxed human way.

But each time I feel discouraged by the limitations, inconvenience, and discomfort, I remind myself that this is a small thing to do to keep my patients and their families (and my colleagues and my family) safe. I remind myself how blessed I am to live in a country where I have access to such protection and at a time where viruses’ transmission is understood and can be guarded against. I remind myself how blessed I am to have an employer who is so conscientious to look after its staff by providing this equipment and up to date guidelines how to use it.

And each time I step outside and take those first unhindered breaths, I am thankful, as perhaps I never have been before, for the blessing of something as basic as fresh air.

This post links with the weekly Five Minute Friday community and this week’s prompt: FRESH. You can find more here: https://fiveminutefriday.com/2021/01/14/fmf-writing-prompt-link-up-fresh/

10 thoughts on “Wearing a Mask

  1. Very graphic, Liz. I get fed up of wearing a mask after an hour when I visit the lal nursing home and I really feel for the staff and all health care professionsals who must wear them all day. I also feel for those who are chained to a laptop all day and do not see another real human being. Tough times, as you say, but we are indeedvery blesed.

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  2. We live in rural Missouri and venture into town only when absolutely necessary, so we don’t have to wear masks much. When we do, I am reminded to be grateful to all of you who make the sacrifice day in and day out. Wearing one for a half hour while I’m in the grocery store is enough to drive me bonkers. God bless and keep you well and healthy through these trying times! FMF #36

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  3. Fellow comrade in healthcare here. I too can’t wait for that moment when I walk out at the end of my shift and can inhale fresh air without a mask on! Hang in there, my friend! (visiting from FMF community)

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  4. Thank you for the “fresh look” at the small sacrifices health professionals make in wearing that mask. Thanks too for setting a good example. I sure hope it doesn’t become the new normal too, but will do my part for as long as necessary as well.

    My mom went home to be with her Lord and Savior in May, toward the beginning of our country’s struggle with this horrid disease. I’m so grateful she didn’t have to endure it long. She had Alzheimer’s and was profoundly hard of hearing — the wearing of masks was SO very confusing for her. I know I personally took for granted how much my facial expressions and the formation of words on my lips mattered to her being able to understand.

    God bless you!
    ~ Cindie visiting from FMF #53

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  5. Thanks for doing what you do! It’s hard. My hubby is a pediatrician at the children’s hospital, so I know what you’re going through. Humor, prayer, and FRESH air will get us through!
    I’m at #55 this week,
    Miccah

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