Who is that masked family?

I met Pam Hollander, a Grafton resident, when I spoke to her class at Nichols College earlier this year. She just sent me this email:

“Part of the way I got through my H1N1 flu visit to our doctor, during which we, my family and I, had to all wear masks, was by telling myself I would write a vignette about it later.  So, I have written a vignette about it and I have attached it to this email.  It is meant to be helpful to other families who might go through this as well as be entertaining.”

I frequently get through things by reassuring myself that it will make a kick-ass story, so I’m sharing Pam’s story, with her permission.

After all three of us had been laid up with flu-like symptoms (“oh, you live in Grafton, it’s probably the H1N1 flu,” the urgent care doctor said Sunday night) for a week, we had to make one more visit to the doctor for my daughter’s chest to be listened to, and this time, they told us, we’d have to wear Masks.
Well, they told me, on the phone, and I had to relay the news to my daughter and husband.  I tried to paint it as a new sort of adventure.  “Imagine all of the fun things we can pretend to be with our masks on.”
Not much of a reaction.  “Well, we have to wear it.”  Letting them know ahead of time would be key, I figured, to avoiding problems when we got there.

Truth be told, I was a bit apprehensive myself about wearing the Mask.  I mean I’d seen them sitting there before in the doctor’s office, for other people, the people we tried to stay far away from when we were there for some non-contagious thing, but now we were those people.

We arrived at the doctors’ office, the six-year old who suffered longer and harder with the flu because she was recovering from tonsillectomy, the pregnant mother, who managed to get the flu eight days after being vaccinated for H1N1 and the husband, who sustained a nice complete version of healthy-adult flu, all at different stages of flu-recovery.  My daughter and I waited dutifully outside the waiting room, while my husband checked us in and brought us three blue Masks, one child-sized.

We stared at the Masks.  They defied any sort of common sense approach to putting them on.  Each had two rubber bands to go around the head and a metal bar at the top.  My attempts to pull, push or force it on had no affect.  My daughter stared at me and then tried hers, getting it into some position where she said, “It is choking me.”

“Ok, let’s just hold them in front our faces,” my husband came up with pragmatically.  He and my daughter went in holding the masks in front of their faces, while I tried one more time, managing to get it into the same sort of unsustainable choking position my daughter had.  I adjusted it slightly to a bearable discomfort and went in.  Mercifully, probably because of our flu-flag, they called us in right away.  I tried not to meet peoples’ eyes as I walked past a baby and several families.  I felt people looking at us and our blue Masks.  I was one of those non-contagious people once.  Now I know any of us could be wearing these things.

When we got into the office, the medical assistant, showed us how to put on the masks properly. The two rubber bands are crisscrossed—the bottom one goes up and the top one goes down.  Then you pinch the strip of metal across the nose to get a molded fit.  Clearly some written directions somewhere would have been very helpful.

My daughter got to take hers off and my husband continued to hold his up.  I was determined to get the thing on right, so I worked it.  We took turns doing Darth Vader imitations, “Luke, I am you father” and “Come over to the dark side, Luke.”  Then the doctor came in and she said we could take the Masks off since her daughter had just had H1N1 and she had herself been vaccinated and had not gotten it.

Well, luckily my daughter’s chest was clear.  I still have a few days of inflammation in my chest and wheezing to deal with, probably because I’m pregnant, but thankfully my husband is recovered enough now to entertain my daughter and take care of me.  It has been a crazy week.  I know a lot of other people out there are having similar weeks.  We are all going through this, and at one time or another any one of us can be the one in the corner in the Mask.


One thought on “Who is that masked family?

  1. Way to handle a difficult situation with grace and humor! Hope the entire family recovers quickly. I’ll be sure to view anyone wearing a mask with disguised mirth (picturing their initial confusion as to how to don the darn thing) and compassion. . .

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