Sandy Klein

Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so love the people who treat you right, forget about the ones who don't, and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it. – Harvey Mackay

About a year ago I did a blog post on choosing a mask and no one cared one bit about it, unless you were in the special needs community. Then this thing called COVID hit, and it is the most read blog post I have ever written. Now that we are a couple of years into our Cystic Fibrosis journey, and many months into the COVID pandemic, and I know a lot more about masks. Masks are one of the most controversial things in our society now. Who could have ever imagined? A year ago if you saw someone in a mask you assumed they must have cancer, or some other terrible disease. Masks were for those poor sick people.

Lets dig into the type of masks you do and don’t need. I’m writing this from multiple perspectives. From the perspective of a special needs mom. From the point of view of the wife of a factory worker. As a relatively healthy human. I can understand the multiple needs that people have around wearing masks. I’m going to link the current CDC guidelines for quarantine, masks, and travel, because I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on Gray’s Anatomy. It gets a little deeper then the topic of this blog, but with the holiday’s coming no harm in over sharing.

Let’s break things down.

  • N95: You don’t need to run out and buy yourself a N95 respirator. If COVID is that bad you should be staying home and leave the heavy equipment to those who are medically trained.
  • Face Shields: I hate to break it to you, and I know it isn’t popular, but face shields aren’t proven safe. Think about it like sunglasses. The sun can still get in all around your glasses. Well when you are wearing that face shield all the germs can still float in and out of the free zone around your mask.
  • Surgical Masks: Those ugly masks that you only saw doctors and nurses, or someone you assumed was sick, wearing remain the gold standard. They are made to keep out the germs not to be pretty. This is the mask our Cystic Fibrosis Clinic recommends for our daughter. You can get a box of them fairly cheap on Amazon. You wear them once and throw them away. You might go through a few a day. Wear it and toss it. Don’t save it for later. This is also a great mask for people with a chronic illness. Lexi says that it is the easiest mask to breathe in, and in a hot climate like Arizona it is definitely a great option to have available.
  • Gaiter: Make sure if you are wearing a gaiter that it has two layers, or that you fold it over to make two layers. This is a good option, and no one in our family personally wears a gaiter. I know a lot of people love these, and it seems like a good option for some.
  • Cloth: Material matters! You’ve got to be able to breathe, so be smart about the materials. Your not going to want a vinyl mask, and a sheer mask might meet the “must have a mask to enter” guidelines but you aren’t fooling anyone. Remember two or more layers of material and washable. I like homemade masks where the maker doesn’t go one size fits all. You might have an oblong face, you might have a double chin, you might be 6ft 5 and have a head just as big. Not everyone is going to fit into the same size mask. Also the stitching can be fancy, but if it is so tight it restricts your ability to move your lips it probably isn’t a viable option. I think everyone knows someone that sews masks these days, so if you have a special face have them make you a special mask.
  • Masks with exhalation valves: This one can get tricky. The CDC guidelines say no, because the virus can escape through the vents. However, as an experienced special needs mom, if you spend the money and get a mask where the valve has replaceable filters then you mitigate that issue. Masks with valves are something that we use during the colder months with Lexi. The cold air makes it harder to breathe for Lexi, and where a surgical mask is perfect for the hot temperatures we need options for cold weather as well. But note if we are in a medical enviroment she always wears the surgical mask. Our favorite is the Cambridge Mask. I’ll put a link below. This is not sponsored, and we earn no commission at all.

I have a hard time with mask complainers. Let’s address the civil right not to wear a mask argument. The fact that you put on pants and shoes everyday, and that we don’t let people walk around nude, is validation enough that making someone wear a peace of cloth is not a violation of anyone’s civil liberty. I do not think that the government should make mask wearing a law, because I would hope that we would all have the common sense to act like intelligent and compassionate humans and wear the mask.

When it comes to masks I do not care your politics, but I think if you use politics as a reason not to wear a mask then you are only reflecting your own lack of common sense and priorities. We march on Washington to support ProLife, but we won’t try and protect the person standing next to us at the grocery store? Think about that for just a minute. We argue about what “lives matter”, but we disregard the life of our neighbor who might be a cancer survivor, have a lung disease, or be high risk. Tell me how that makes sense to any compassionate person?

Finally let’s address the “I can’t wear a mask.” I don’t want to talk about how you have asthma or another condition that means you shouldn’t wear a mask or that the mask will make you sick. If the sickest amongst us have lived their lives pre-COVID wearing masks to protect themselves, clearly you wearing a mask is not going to cause you great harm. Of course there are extreme medical conditions that would make mask wearing not possible, but if you have an extreme medical condition you probably had it before COVID, and it shouldn’t just now suddenly be extreme. Lexi’s lung function can be 60% when she’s sick, at doctors, needing treatments, and guess what she wears a mask to all those things. I wanted to get all that out in the open, because I am not going to be a sympathetic ear to the anti-mask movement. Yes, sometimes wearing a mask literally feels like it could take Lexi’s breath away, and in those situations we have her step outside or walk to a space where no one is around and take deep breaths. The risk of never wearing a mask for her is much higher then the discomfort that sometimes a mask can cause. To stress, I know some of you can not wear masks and have a very strong medical or emotional reason why. This is focused on those suddenly with lung issues amongst us.

This blog is from my perspective. It is from my personal experiences as a special needs mom. The topic of masks can be so confusing, and I have had several years of trial and error to find what works, is safe, and comfortable for my family. I get angry, angry like a mother bear protecting her cub, when people want to argue about masks. I sat in a room and held my step moms hand while she died of lung cancer. I’ve cried next to my daughter’s hospital bed as she had surgeries, tests, and treatments for Cystic Fibrosis and Asthma. I believe I am a compassionate person, but I have an extreme lack of sympathy for those that want to complain about the injustice of a mask. I think that those people must be so truly blessed not to live on the flip side of the argument. I hope that you never find yourself on the flipside of the argument.

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