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.


  1. Elizabeth, that all sounds a bit OTT to me. You are the only one wearing a mask? That is because the others ARE vaccinated? Then how can they pass get it from you to pass on to children??!! And what about those people passing on common colds and other viruses anyway after being in close proximity with the group all day..............Chin up girl, I hope it works out for you. Jen

  2. Good for you for standing your ground on this. I hope it doesn't have to lead to your resign, for it sounds as if this is something that you are very good at and enjoy. It will all work out as it is intended to.

  3. Elizabeth, I haven't said this yet here, but I am so sorry that you are having to go through this. As you say, indeed, there is hysteria about vaccines on both sides. I'm sorry that you're caught in the cross-fire, and I regret that this issue is causing you to consider giving up an honor to which you are certainly entitled, i.e., the fellowship, the class, the opportunity. I think you are approaching this in a deeply respectful manner to all parties involved, and I think that's better than I could do. All my good thoughts sent your way.

  4. I really don't understand the point of the mask. If you don't have symptoms, what is the point?

  5. Do you hear that?

    I am imagining that you spoke those words out loud to your supervisor in her office with the door open and that just across the hall there happened to be an auditorium, also with the door open, with 1100 people who were waiting for something else to happen. And that they heard you. And that now they are all looking at you and applauding.

    You will not be silenced. Damn right.

  6. It's their loss , how sad.
    What kind of logic is that , really.

  7. Oh brother. Why is it that common sense so often loses? As a health care professional, I have seen some odd things in my time. The thing that is so frustrating is that rules seem to shift and change so often. Good luck with all this.

  8. Still saying it is a ridiculous policy and since CHLA is our home away from home,oh how I wish I could give them an ear full seeing,as I said before, it took 2 of our own dying on the oncology floor to get serious about how things are run up there.Just saying.
    Ridiculous.Did I already say that?

  9. It doesn't make medical sense at all. And I say that as an RN.
    This all just seems so dark ages. Do they ring a bell as you enter the room? It's such bullshit.
    You know, you're stronger in your beliefs than I am. Despite the fact that I don't get flu shots, if I was in your shoes, I would probably cave, suffer the results, and be able to go maskless. Because I'm a wimp.
    I sure do respect you.


    To be quite honest, I was shocked that you wore it in the first place.

    Somehow, I was getting mixed up between the epilepsy conference and this fellowship.

    In standing up for yourself here, you're making a statement about so much that is wrong and simply ridiculous within health care.

    I suppose though, had you decided never to wear it, your message to your superior would not have been as strong.

    In the words of Oprah, "you go, girl!"

  11. I am glad you are confident to stand up for yourself. I am sorry that you may not be continuing the internship. I hope they will come to an agreeance that is more logical.

  12. I totally understand your point of view, and I hope it won't come to you having to resign.

  13. I believe that you summed your situation up in these few words: "the debate is generally so simplistic and hysterical."

    Whenever and wherever debate is hijacked for personal agendas, yoru voice will not be heard. And that's a shame.

    On vaccinations, my wife and I made the conscious decision not to give ou children the MMR vaccine. Were we right or wrong? Well, at least we're the parents and we stand by our decision.

    Bear hug from me in these difficult times.

    Greetings from London.

  14. Before you resign, just go back without the mask. I'll bet nothing happens. If they say anything say, I explained my feelings on this issue, there is not medical reason for me to wear it and I'm not going to. The medical people in the room will agree and if they don't, you can resign having said your piece.

  15. It just does not get any easier for you, does it? Everyone else have summed it up well. I applaud you for standing your ground, but I am sorry you needed to.

  16. I hope that your thoughts are able to open up a dialogue among the participants and administrators that proves open, honest, and fruitful.


  17. What a loss if you resign ..... It all seems so petty. I'm with MaggieWorld .... I'll bet that if you "forget" it next time, no one will say anything. And if they do, it would be a good opportunity to speak your peace.

  18. It's really too bad that they are forcing you to wear that mask. I did that program many years ago and don't recall any flu shot requirements



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