Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Medical Masks

     Hospital visits are hard, especially if you came down with a really bad case of pneumonia.  In November of 2012, I came down with a fever.  At first, my family and I thought it was a cold, but when my fever reached 102, we went to the emergency room.  Then it appeared to be strep throat, but I wasn’t getting better with antibiotics.  It took about three trips to the doctor and some additional tests done before everyone found out that I had pneumonia.  I went straight from the doctor to the local hospital, but the journey did not stop there.  After two days in the local hospital, I was still getting worse, and then I was transferred to a large hospital in Albuquerque.
     Of course, pneumonia is contagious, and doctors and other people should take precautions when it is really bad.  In my case no one knew how bad it was until I moved to the second hospital.  At the second hospital, everyone had to wear masks, gowns, gloves, the entire deal.  I depend on lip-reading, and the surgical masks took that ability away; also, my ears were filled with fluid from an infection.  To top that, the doctors were baffled as to how I got pneumonia and how to treat it specifically, and so they were asking me a lot of questions.  Hello!  I am not hearing that well!
     We tried multiples approaches to this situation.  One of my parents always stayed with me, but they had to wear masks, too.  (My parents did the same thing for my grandfather when he was in the hospital, although they didn’t have to wear the mask with him, and he was hard of hearing, too*.)  My parents knew my medical history and had a general idea of my daily schedule, so they could answer basic questions and let the doctors know I am hard of hearing.  There were some limits to this solution though.  I was getting bombarded with some weird questions that they couldn’t answer, i.e. have you been around any birds for extended period of time.
     However, both the doctors and my parents have found a way around the mask rule.  The mask rule only applied to around the bed and there was an area marked off where, people could stand without the mask.  With this simple solution, I could read lips and understand questions.  We also used some ASL finger spelling and the few words in sign we knew.
     Masks not only affect hospital visits, but also trips to the dentist.  I found the best way to handle masks is for the doctor or nurse to go through what they are going to do first and then put on their masks.   Another option is to ask them not to wear the mask when they’re talking or working on you.  If you know ASL, you could use an interpreter.  Or if you have a really contagious disease or something similar, they could use a computer or notepad and write stuff down.
     My mom and I thought it would be great if there was a clear, see-through medical mask.  Maybe that’ll be a science fair project some day. 

* His hearing loss was most likely caused by environmental conditions in the Army rather than having it since birth as he became hard of hearing at 40.