Superhero Mask 2020

Ella and Avery Fowler front a stack of homemade safety masks in Essex for "This Superhero" (a.k.a., Jess Yurwitz's husband, an emergency room doctor working the front line at a large Boston hospital.)

I shaved my husband’s head yesterday.  

This sweet man still has a full head of hair at 48 so it left a big pile of black hair in the bottom of our tub.  His new short hair is not a fashion choice.  He is an emergency room physician and he does not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to cover his head when he is treating Covid-19 patients.  A shaved head makes it easier to wipe down his entire head with antiseptic hand wash after seeing each sick patient.

My husband is one of the best emergency room physicians in the world.  Really.  He is an attending at one of the world’s best hospitals.  He has boxes of diplomas and awards, including a complete set of sixteen framed “Outstanding Educator” awards.  He has trained more than 500 emergency doctors across the globe.  And you would never know he is “that guy”.  He would never tell you.  He’s not flashy and he’s not sad about his hair being gone because he never cared about fashion.  He still wears the same blue plaid L.L. Bean button down shirt he has worn nearly every day for twenty-five years.  I swear.  I might bury him in that plaid shirt, if it survives long enough.  (Except that I want to wear it once he is gone.  Like a little old Italian grandma who wears nothing but black after her spouse dies.)

Now my husband’s life is in jeopardy.  He is washing his plastic face shield with postage stamp sized alcohol wipes because that is all he has.  He is wearing the respirator he bought to paint his car.  He was told to reuse his masks.  Low stockpiles of PPE, poor planning, slow supply chains, and our hoarding instincts all increase his risk.  He shaved his head because he is getting ready for war.  He looks like a Sohei warrior-monk about to wield a naginata blade in battle. But he doesn’t need a naginata because he has a more valuable superpower.  

My husband can intubate the most difficult patients.  When your asthmatic grandmother with previous bypass and asymptomatic pneumonia comes half dead into the emergency department, my husband is the guy you want running her care.  He can thread the most difficult airway.  He can get oxygen saturation to rise.  He can save lives during this epidemic.  And this guy, this amazing superhero, does not have the supplies he needs to stay safe.  So, three weeks from now, he may be sick or quarantined when you walk into the emergency room carrying your child.  

Abstract Face Mask

You see, his danger is your danger.  His safety makes your safety possible.  Our lives are woven together like the pattern of his plaid shirt.  We are all connected - over and under, straight lines and tight corners that bring us together for a time and then spread us out over six feet, many miles or between heaven and earth.  While we mortals sit at home in pajamas for the fifth day in a row, my husband shaved his head and got ready for battle without enough armor.  

What can you do?  First, take excellent care of the healthcare professionals you know.  Send them some food, some flowers, some gratitude.  Next, share this information with your elected officials and ask them for faster PPE production and distribution.  Finally, start collecting or even sewing masks and bring them to the nearest emergency room.  Healthy people don’t need a stockpile of masks.  You only need one — the one you will wear to the emergency room when you get sick enough to need my husband’s help:  And pray that he will be there waiting for you.

HERE's a link to a face mask sewing tutorial that is helpful.

Jess Yurwitz lives in Essex with her three sons and husband, who has been an ER doctor for over twenty years. 

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