The Mask Controversy Is Difficult to Hear as a Chronically Ill Patient

The Mask Controversy Is Difficult to Hear as a Chronically Ill Patient
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As a person living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a chronic respiratory condition characterized by progressive scarring of the lungs and reduced oxygen, I’ve been wearing a mask for years in public places. Learning to wear a mask to protect my now-compromised lungs was difficult for me, so I understand the general public’s hesitation and dislike of mandatory mask orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends wearing masks to help slow the spread of the virus, so we all must do our part.

Reactions to the global pandemic have brought out the best and the worst in people, both on social media and in person. You don’t have to look hard to find glimmers of positivity that have emerged from COVID-19 and the social isolation we’ve all had to endure; drive-by birthday parties and quality time via digital correspondence are just a few examples. Unfortunately, the other end of that spectrum includes negativity, complaining, and controversy when it comes to the pandemic.

The controversy flooding my social media pages is about the use of masks. Many Canadian provinces and U.S. states have implemented mandatory mask laws to reduce the spread of the virus. As a lung disease patient, I understand masks are uncomfortable and may feel unnatural to wear in public or around others. However, I am pleading with you to abide by these orders and help stop the controversy surrounding their use.

I am deeply angered and upset when I hear comments that masks infringe on someone’s rights or freedoms, or cause those with perfectly healthy lungs to experience a drop in oxygen saturation levels. The physicians, nurses, and surgeons who have saved my life on multiple occasions (and possibly yours or your loved one’s as well) wear masks for 12-hour shifts on a regular basis. To dispel the myth that masks decrease your oxygen saturation, several nurses and medical professionals have also shared videos showing that oxygen levels are normally maintained after wearing a mask for several hours. The American Lung Association confirmed this in a recent post.

While people who are healthy may have the choice to wear a mask, I do not. Due to IPF, I am at an increased risk of getting sick all year; a mask is not optional for me. I’ve learned the hard way how damaging acute illnesses can be on my lungs and how hard it is to recover from them. If you do have the choice, please make the right one and follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations on wearing a mask to help slow the spread of this virus.

Wearing a mask is an act of love for your neighbor and those in your community. While I acknowledge that it is uncomfortable, choosing to wear a mask tells those of us who are more vulnerable to this disease that you see us. It is a collective effort that protects all of us. I am pleading with those who are creating this controversy to educate themselves using credible sources of information that address their concerns.

To better understand how a mask can help cease the spread of this virus, or how wearing a mask does not damage your lungs or oxygen levels, please see the following resources. Feel free to share with your friends and family if they are contributing to the controversy. We all need to do our part. Please note that this list is not exhaustive. The following articles can be helpful in addition to the ones linked throughout this column:

As a patient living with IPF/PF, how are you dealing with the mask controversy amid the global pandemic?

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Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

Thanks for stopping by my column! My name is Charlene Marshall and I was diagnosed officially with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) on April 7 2016 after 13 months of various tests, hospitalizations and misdiagnoses, such as bronchitis and asthma. Due to my age, the specialist disclosed that he was unsure how the IPF would manifest itself in terms of progression, and whether it would be fast or slow and what the course of my illness might look like. Not much has changed since then, meaning there is still a lot that remains unknown, which is largely due to my age and how “rare” it is for someone under 30 to receive a diagnosis of IPF. That being said, a lot has changed for me in the time since diagnosis and I am looking forward to sharing some of those changes with you through this online platform, and I invite you along for the ride! Throughout this column I intend to chronicle the experience of living with an invisible, yet fatal disease as a young adult and share some stories about how IPF has impacted every aspect of my life, both good and bad, thus far. I plan on highlighting the challenges (and where I can, the positives…) that come with living with IPF and the impact on social and intimate relationships, finances, family dynamics, facing mortality, infertility, travelling, medication side effects, career goals and so much more as it arises for me as a “new” patient. I hope others’ with similar experiences will reach out as no story trumps any other, nor should any go unheard. For now, let me leave you with some personal details about who I am, outside of my IPF diagnosis. I grew up in a small town in south-western Ontario and still live within Ontario, although in a much bigger city. My favorite sport is/was underwater hockey (yes, it is a thing: look it up on YouTube), I love working with people, I work full-time in the Social Work/Social Services field, I am an avid learner filled with heaps of curiosity for the world, which lead me to start my Masters Degree in 2014. I am in the last few months of my Masters Degree and am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Australia more than I’ve looked forward to anything before. Welcome to the shambles and chaos that is my life!
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Thanks for stopping by my column! My name is Charlene Marshall and I was diagnosed officially with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) on April 7 2016 after 13 months of various tests, hospitalizations and misdiagnoses, such as bronchitis and asthma. Due to my age, the specialist disclosed that he was unsure how the IPF would manifest itself in terms of progression, and whether it would be fast or slow and what the course of my illness might look like. Not much has changed since then, meaning there is still a lot that remains unknown, which is largely due to my age and how “rare” it is for someone under 30 to receive a diagnosis of IPF. That being said, a lot has changed for me in the time since diagnosis and I am looking forward to sharing some of those changes with you through this online platform, and I invite you along for the ride! Throughout this column I intend to chronicle the experience of living with an invisible, yet fatal disease as a young adult and share some stories about how IPF has impacted every aspect of my life, both good and bad, thus far. I plan on highlighting the challenges (and where I can, the positives…) that come with living with IPF and the impact on social and intimate relationships, finances, family dynamics, facing mortality, infertility, travelling, medication side effects, career goals and so much more as it arises for me as a “new” patient. I hope others’ with similar experiences will reach out as no story trumps any other, nor should any go unheard. For now, let me leave you with some personal details about who I am, outside of my IPF diagnosis. I grew up in a small town in south-western Ontario and still live within Ontario, although in a much bigger city. My favorite sport is/was underwater hockey (yes, it is a thing: look it up on YouTube), I love working with people, I work full-time in the Social Work/Social Services field, I am an avid learner filled with heaps of curiosity for the world, which lead me to start my Masters Degree in 2014. I am in the last few months of my Masters Degree and am looking forward to an upcoming trip to Australia more than I’ve looked forward to anything before. Welcome to the shambles and chaos that is my life!
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4 comments

  1. Thank you for an articulate and reasoned article. I hope you will share it on social media.
    I am post- transplant, and all of my friends and family comply with mask- wearing when around me, which is always outdoors and at a distance. When on walks, if I come across someone without a mask, I step far off the trail and have my own mask on.
    I grapple with the fact that this issue is controversial. It’s not complicated science; the reasoning is logical and should make sense to anyone. Like you, it angers me that people can be so selfish and, well, stupid.
    Stay well, my friend and fellow IPF folks. We ARE in this together.

    • Charlene Marshall says:

      Hi Holly,

      Thank you so much for reading my column and reaching out via the comments. As always, it is wonderful to hear from you! I know you (and many others) would resonate with this topic as a patient post-transplant, and I think of you often when I hear others’ complaining about wearing a mask. I just want to say to them, “if you only knew”… but that isn’t an effective use of my already-limited energy. I have been sharing the article on social media, as will Pulmonary Fibrosis News. I’m so glad your friends and family comply with wearing a mask around you, it truly is “an act of love” as I cited in my article. It just seems surreal that anyone needs to argue it.

      Take good care and thanks for writing. You’re absolutely correct: We’re in this together!
      Sincerely,
      Charlene.

      • Ginger Adelstone says:

        Though I have IPF, I’m refusing to wear a mask here in the US because this has become a political control issue. No masks for me.

        • Charlene Marshall says:

          Hi Ginger,

          Thank you for reading my columns and reaching out via the comments. I’ve heard of the mask controversy in the US becoming political, very sad indeed when politics interfere with health recommendations. Stay safe!
          Charlene.

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