Sunday, December 12, 2010
flu-gate, mask-gate, an update
First of all, thank you for your encouraging words, your funny words and your support as I struggle through the ridiculous mandate from the powers that be that I wear a mask throughout my fellowship in lieu of a flu shot.
Vaccinations are always a hot topic -- an issue that usually makes me feel sick to my stomach, and not because I'm pro or anti but rather because the debate is generally so simplistic and hysterical. And I refuse to make my blog a place to further the simplicity and hysteria.
I am not going to get a flu vaccine because several members of my family have had peculiar reactions to flu vaccines, including myself, and I refuse to believe that my presence in the leadership training classes, unvaccinated, puts other people at risk. I understand that employees of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, those that have direct contact with vulnerable, sick children or those that care for them should get the flu vaccine because it's good public health policy. I get that. However, as a fellow in leadership training, I have little to no contact with children at the hospital; in fact, our classes are held in a building across town, several miles from the hospital. Each Wednesday, I spend approximately six hours in the building, sitting in a medium-sized lecture hall with about fifty or so other trainees. We break up into smaller groups and have dynamic discussions in smaller rooms where we sit around large tables. Now, some of these people DO have regular, consistent contact with children with special healthcare needs, and the argument can be made that I have contact with them and therefore the children, indirectly. Hence, the mask.
Does everyone feel safe now?
The trouble with the mask is that it's immensely uncomfortable, particularly when one must be engaged in conversation. It sits on your nose and mouth and moves in and out with your breath. Your speech is muffled. I picture a brain surgeon coming out of an operating room after twelve hours of surgery. He pulls his mask down under his chin to talk to the waiting relatives. He doesn't talk through the mask, does he?
For six to eight hours, I can not freely engage in discussion, offer my opinions and perspectives as a parent of a child with a chronic disease wearing a mask. I just can't.
I won't go into my own, more personal feelings about the flu vaccine, about the medical world, about privacy and coercion, but these issues play only a small part in my decision to make a stink and refuse to wear the mask or get the vaccine.
I've written a letter to my supervisor, letting her know how I feel. I told her that if I had known this was going to be a policy, and it was only recently sprung upon us, I would never have applied for the fellowship. I told her that I understand the policy is not negotiable, but that I am willing to wear the mask during those brief and few times when we are in areas of the building where children are visiting regularly. I told her that I understand and would never put children at risk in my work. I told her that I find the policy coercive and not medically sound (I spoke to my private physician about this). I told her that to be an effective parent leader, I can not have my voice muffled for six hours, once and sometimes twice a week for nine months.
So that's where I stand. I will probably have to resign, and that's really disappointing, but I'm looking on this "test" as a sort of gift. I need to pull inward, toward my husband and family, tend to our needs, stretch myself back into shape. I still have my work improving the lives of children with special healthcare needs, including epilepsy, and that won't stop.
But I'm not wearing the mask.