I Swear I’m Not Contagious

 

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Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash. [Image Description: A girl laying in bed, holding her white bed sheet up, covering her face from the bridge of the nose down.]

I get “normal people sick” easily.

Since I’m housebound for other chronic illness reasons, I’m not exposed to as many germs as I would be had I been in a crowded public place, such as a restaurant or shopping mall. When I do leave my house, I take my Vogmask with me, which helps filter out the germs that I would’ve been breathing in.

The Vogmask doesn’t look like those regular paper surgical masks you see in medical dramas on TV. That’s part of the reason why I like them so much. However, as you might be able to imagine, you get a lot of staring from people who may not understand why you’re wearing it. I suppose the first thing that pops into a stranger’s head is “contagious” in the form of a big, flashing neon sign. It’s fine; I expected as much when I made the purchase.

What I didn’t expect were the stares from medical professionals.

When I was visiting family in the hospital last weekend, I of course wore my mask. I almost left it in my purse, but I’d heard they were crowded with flu patients recently, and I was not about to chance that. When my dad and I checked into the visitor’s station, the person manning it thanked me for wearing a mask. I guess they thought I was the sick one. Which, let’s face it, I am, but I’m not contagious! I almost corrected him, but people have a hard enough time hearing me without the mask.

We got in the elevator with other people and I think one of them was part of the staff, but I don’t remember. That’s when the staring began. Again, I expected this, and I was pretty used to it already with my knee braces and wheelchair. I tried to smile to make them more comfortable, but, you know, the mask was in the way… I also wanted to tell them I was wearing it for my protection, not theirs. I didn’t, though, because I was tired and getting kind of hot. Those masks are great, but damn does it get hot under there sometimes.

A couple of days later, we went back to the hospital to pick up our patient*. I wore my mask again. As we were leaving, we said goodbye to some of the nurses that took care of our patient. When the nurses saw me, they looked at me longer than they did everyone else. I get it, they’re curious, but it’s a medical mask… I don’t know. If they had asked questions like “where did you get that?” or commented on it at all, I wouldn’t feel the need to write an entire blog post detailing my experience. All they did was stare and it made me uncomfortable, to be honest.

It wasn’t even just that one group of nurses. This went on for the rest of our time in the hospital until we reached the car and I took my mask off for some fresh air. I’m obviously not going to let this one minor uncomfortable experience deter me from ever wearing my mask in public again… I’d rather get stared at and stay relatively healthy than entertain my vanity and risk catching a cold. Or worse, the flu!

I wanted to write about this to share my experience and I was curious to see if any of you have had similar encounters! By far my favourite as far as public reactions go is when I stand up briefly from my wheelchair to reach something. Priceless.


*I’m referring to my family member as “our patient” for their privacy.