I think of COVID as a deadly game of Russian roulette. You don’t know the severity of the disease until it’s too late. To quote a friend of mine, “There are those that get COVID, recover and move on with their lives, and there are those that survive COVID.” I will add that sadly, there are also those that don’t survive COVID. Some believe wearing a mask will help prevent the spread of the virus, while others believe wearing a mask makes no difference. The best way I can explain my stance and belief that wearing a mask can help save lives is by using portions of my own story as an example.
Back in March 2021 when the vaccines were first becoming available to us, I tested positive for COVID four days before my scheduled appointment to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Eight days later, after four emergency room visits, I was hospitalized. In between my four trips to the emergency room I was home and the only person in our household vaccinated was my wife. She had only been vaccinated three days before I tested positive, so her vaccine needed more time to be effective. Therefore, she was as vulnerable as my unvaccinated daughters.
I was severely ill and worsened each day. There were moments I had to interact with my wife as she was caring for me. We wore masks every time. When I was hospitalized, I was still contagious. My wife signed a waiver and was able to be by my side despite my condition. She wore a mask and protective gear. She did everything recommended by healthcare officials to prevent the spread and to protect herself from me. My wife never caught COVID. In fact, nobody in my household caught COVID from me. I believe masking up saved my wife and daughters; saved them from having to endure the physical pain and devastation this virus has caused so many, including me.
I ask you to picture this.
A man contracts COVID and develops ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome), which evolves into bilateral COVID pneumonia. The mounting pressure in his chest cavity causes pneumothoraxes; both lungs collapse multiple times. Both lungs develop fibrosis and scarring to the point they can no longer recover. During this time, he has already been placed on a ventilator and ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) and has now been life-flighted to a new hospital in hopes that he will get placed on the lung transplant list. All equipment is maxed out, nothing else can be done but wait for a viable set of lungs and pray he can hold on just a little longer to get a lifesaving bilateral lung transplant.
A miracle happens and he receives a Gift of Life, but now the real work begins. This man must relearn everything; how to walk, write; all because of severe physical de-conditioning and malnutrition. After 120 days of being hospitalized, he must stay close to the hospital for yet an additional six weeks to do outpatient pulmonary therapy. This man finally gets to return home after nearly six months and try to rebuild a life that’s forever changed. He now must be ever vigilante by exercising extreme caution when in public or around others because his immune system is non-existing. The tradeoff of surviving is that life becomes more difficult and challenging to maneuver.
I am the man I asked you to picture. Pandemic or not, I no longer have a choice; I must wear a mask when in public settings.
I followed recommendations to social distance and wear a mask before I tested positive, but because of someone who was sick and didn’t wear a mask, I and others were exposed.
Now, imagine if my story was instead about one of your loved ones contracting COVID from some-one who didn’t want to wear a mask; someone who thought it was silly, a violation of their rights? Would you then realize how something as simple as wearing a mask can protect others? Is it going to take personal tragedy before you realize wearing a mask is how you can protect your loved ones, friends, and your neighbors?
Wearing a mask is the right thing to do. Wearing a mask can and will make a difference. Let’s end COVID together.
Rick Bressler is a husband, father, and Veteran of the United States Army, who wants to share his experiences as a COVID survivor to help promote getting vaccinated and wearing a mask.