With all the new changes we’re facing during these tough times, wearing a face mask while practicing social distancing for necessary trips outside our homes has become just one more thing to add to our to-do list. Even today, while doing just that, I felt encouraged by seeing more and more people, young and old alike, thinking of their neighbor by covering their faces. In many ways, I think the coronavirus (COVID-19) has truly brought us closer together while staying apart.
But as much as I was encouraged by the many who were doing their part in trying to stop the spread of this awful virus, I was also, I admit, disheartened by the many who weren’t. Look, I get it guys… one more rule right now when so many things feel so out of sorts is tough. It’s an inconvenience and uncomfortable. It’s easier to fight change, than to accept it. And we don’t feel like doing this.
When I think of the word “feel” though, instantly what comes to mind is pain. More specifically, it’s the severe pain acknowledged among medical professionals felt by simple things like talking and chewing, or yes, even wearing a mask. I’m thinking of the pain felt by people with trigeminal neuralgia (TN), a chronic pain condition affecting the nerve that carries sensation from the face to the brain. With all of the need for concern these days, they have one more thing to worry about right now.
Of the many but rare TN warriors out there, my twin sister is one of them, and this is a daily worry for her, even more so because she is currently facing a very painful flare of this chronic facial disease. I’ve watched her agonize over the decision to put a face mask on, only to do so, knowing fully well even the softest of material can trigger an attack she describes as extreme electrical shocks along her eye, cheek and jaw. She does this because she believes this is the right thing to do, and infectious disease professionals agree.
Wearing a face covering can help protect others you come into contact with at the grocery store or pharmacy from your sneeze or cough by potentially preventing the share of your germs with them. Putting a mask on while having to be out and about during essential errands, even if you don’t feel unwell, could go a long way toward protecting the health of your community.
“Stop the spread,” a phrase I’m sure all of us are very familiar with by now during this COVID-19 season is what this is all about. I would add kindness with that, too. Be kind, wear a mask. Consider the health of your elderly parents, your friend’s aunt or uncle with chronic lung disease and your neighbor’s young daughter enduring chemotherapy treatments. Think of the doctors working long hours and sometimes unending shifts, the physically and mentally exhausted nurses in ICU wards and the first responders working overtime. All those on the frontlines, some who may even have TN, who are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of care they are trying to provide to our fellow Americans who have contracted this virus. Think of the many families that have heartbreakingly lost their loved ones to this fight. And consider those with trigeminal neuralgia facial pain who are in states where they’re required to wear a mask.
Be kind. Think of your neighbor. Help stop the spread. Please, just wear a mask.
For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community: