The state of our country is ludicrous, people.
So many people aren’t wearing masks because it doesn’t protect them. Even though, if we all wore masks, then we all would gain a better level of protection.
No, masks aren’t perfect even when everyone is wearing one. But they do something and why wouldn’t you do everything you can to protect other people, even if it’s only potentially doing a little?
But no, there are a ton of people wandering around without masks. Heck, there are actual anti-mask rallies going on. A suburb here had one where a CITY COUNCILMAN gave a supportive speech.
I know some people say they can’t breath, but interestingly health care workers wear these suckers for hours at a time. Surgeons spend hours upon hours in masks and not one has dropped from hypoxia — the latest alleged “danger” of masks.
And also, I’ve heard from a startling number of folks on Twitter with breathing issues who say they manage just fine. In fact, they’re more interested in wearing one because they really can’t afford to catch COVID-19.
But hey, this is America: where your freedom is more important than someone else’s well-being/actual survival.
So it’s life as usual
And of course, a lot of non-mask-wearers are the folks refusing to curtail their activities: Fourth of July parties, bars (the ones here only just now closed), visiting crowded public areas, etc.
And yeah, yeah I know: most people (especially young people) will be okay if they do get sick — though no one is sure whether there are long-term effects for even mild cases. Heck, they’ve found that some asymptomatic cases have lung inflammation that one article I read said was reminiscent of walking pneumonia.
It’s not just about them
But even if they’re fine, the people they spread it to may not be. They could infect someone who’s older or immunocompromised or who just has bad luck in the Russian roulette that is disease progression. Those people could end up on ventilators. They could die.
Obviously, death is the most serious outcome. But being on a ventilator is no small matter. I was on one for the better part of three months. So I’m acutely aware of what this means.
So to everyone who is wavering about or refusing to wear a mask to protect other people, here’s a glimpse into what you could be looking at/sentencing someone else to.
Your gag reflex
First, there’s the issue of mouth movement. Specifically, any time you move your lips or tongue, it jostles the tube, and you gag. Badly.
This does not go away with time. I was intubated for around two weeks. Every damn day that I had the ability to move my mouth, I made myself gag multiple times.
Second, your airway does not appreciate being rubbed by a tube. It will be the worst sore throat you have ever experienced.
So they have to regularly administer numbing agents. But those inevitably wear off at least a little bit before the next round is due. So you will feel it for at least a little while every hour or two.
Third, your mouth doesn’t like foreign objects in it. How does it flush things out? Saliva!
In other words, you drool somewhat uncontrollably a decent amount of the time. I assure you, your body does not adjust. The drool will continue indefinitely.
Fourth, vocal cord damage!
That tube I mentioned a minute ago? It’s rubbing against your vocal cords. More than 10-14 days of that and you risk permanent damage.
Best case scenario, they give you a tracheotomy. But with your having COVID and soon to be crowded hospital conditions, they might worry that the risk of infection is too great. In which case, you have a high likelihood of your voice being damaged.
Fifth, if you’re “lucky” enough to get the tracheotomy, you have to deal with the tube tugging rather uncomfortably at the base of your neck whenever you move too much. It’s a small but very sickening feeling.
Plus, respiratory therapists have to disconnect it momentarily to clean around it and other fussing that I didn’t quite get because, frankly, I was on a lot of drugs. But even a moment off the ventilator when you can’t breathe on your own is terrifying.
Sixth, lying around in bed for a long time isn’t good for you. Stuff accumulates in your lungs, which can lead to pneumonia.
Since you can’t exactly cough it up (unless you’re trached and even then your lung muscles have to be strong enough to expel the matter), someone has to go in and get it.
In other words, THEY STICK A VACUUM TUBE INTO YOUR LUNGS. Yep, you get to feel the air literally being sucked out of your lungs.
Your lungs, part II
Seventh, the machine is breathing for you. This means that it’s hard to regulate your own breathing.
Instead, you’re having air pumped into you at regular intervals. Which, hey, is preferable to — ya know — not breathing. But it’s strange and not always fun.
Your speech (or lack thereof)
Finally — and this is a biggie — you can’t talk.
You get a laminated piece of paper with a few key phrases on it (think “I need a bedpan”) and anything else… Well, you point to the letters one by one to spell out what you need.
If you’re intubated, it means you’re extremely sick, and pointing and spelling will likely seem like a huge exertion of effort. So you don’t get to talk much, to communicate your needs. To do anything except lie there while healthcare workers (remember: your friends and family aren’t allowed to visit) talk at you or around (and about) you. It’s disheartening, isolating and deeply frustrating.
And yes when I posted about this on Facebook, someone asked “Don’t they sedate intubated patients?” Well, yes and no.
They gave me Versed, which would knock me out for 45 minutes to an hour at a time. But they’d only give it every two hours. And then they got concerned about how much I was using — funny, I didn’t want to be awake — so they asked me to scale back.
In other words, it’s unlikely that they’re going to keep you sedated constantly. Of course, you’ll be very sick at this point, so you’ll do a fair amount of sleeping.* But there will be plenty of time that you’re awake.
I hope this fun peek into ventilator life convinced even a couple of people to put/keep their damn masks on. Even if you don’t end up on one of these, you could be sentencing someone else to it.
Wear your masks, people. Stop going out unnecessarily. Remember, it’s not just your health you’re risking.
*But for the record, hospital sleep is terrible. You’re woken up at various intervals — including the middle of the night — to have stats taken or x-rays done or otherwise be jostled. You will not get a full night’s sleep as a patient. You will get a few hours at a time at best.