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Navigating a Post-Mask Mandate Era With a Medically Complex Child

This past year of living through a global pandemic has been difficult for many people in many ways. Not having the usual contact and personal intimate interactions with others can become very lonely over time. We are human beings and the connections to other people keep us going, provide support when it is most needed and provide comfort. When we are having a hard day, or when we have had a really good one, we instinctually want to gather with family and friends to share the news. Gathering is one of the things we have been repeatedly told not to do in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Watching the news, hearing reports on the dangers of the virus and how it affects the lungs, I became immediately attuned to learning what I could about this COVID-19. I needed to know what could be done to keep my daughter safe and healthy as well as myself. My daughter Kerstin spent weeks spread over months in and out of the Special Care and Pulmonary Units of Children’s Hospital of Alabama in the late summer and fall of 2019, then again in 2020 with respiratory illnesses. During these stays, Kerstin required and was placed on high flow oxygen for several days at a time for each of the four separate stays. We just spent about a week of her on what they call an “at-home regimen” and was told that if she continued to have low oxygen saturations, she would need to be seen at the hospital. Thankfully, she got through that and has not been on supplemental oxygen in five days now. Needless to say, my daughter is at high risk of life-threatening illness if she caught COVID-19.

As we continue to traverse through the COVID pandemic and vaccines have rolled out and some have been halted for further research; the world seems to be completely done with everything “coronavirus,” “pandemic,” “virus,” “mask,” “social distance,” “physical distance” and “safer at home.” But re-entering the world is not the same for everyone! There is no going back to “normal” or “business as usual” for many people. Like grief, going back into the world with a deadly virus still ravaging, mask mandates ending (ended here in Alabama back on April 9, 2021) and a low percentage of adults being vaccinated (again, AL), will look and feel differently for everyone. Some people are eager to go mask-less, some cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, some will not be vaccinated for whatever reason(s). I will not judge them and hope that my decisions will be respected: to be vaccinated, to remain distant and masked for the health and safety of Kerstin and other people considered “vulnerable.”

As we continue to push through to the other side of this virus, please continue to listen to sincere and trusted medical professionals, respect the personal space of others, wash your hands and wear your mask. We will!

“You really can change the world if you care enough.” –Marian Wright Edelman

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