Kathleen Klassen with her doctor’s certificate, stating an exemption to mask-wearing, for medical reasons. Photo by Terry Farrell

Kathleen Klassen with her doctor’s certificate, stating an exemption to mask-wearing, for medical reasons. Photo by Terry Farrell

Black Creek woman who can’t wear a mask feels unfairly judged

Kathleen Klassen’s medical condition makes wearing a mask impossible

Black Creek resident Kathleen Klassen would wear a mask if she could, but she is one of the many British Columbians whose medical condition prevents mask-wearing.

She wants the community to know it’s not by choice.

Klassen has primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS). As defined by the National MS Society, multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

In Klassen’s case, any visual interference with her feet causes immediate vertigo and nausea. Even the slightest diversion, such as seeing a mask where her nose should be, or the slight blur of a see-through shield, triggers her symptoms.

“For some odd reason, my brain needs to be able to clearly see my feet in order for mobility to occur,” she explained. “For example, I can’t walk in tall grass, or snow that covers my feet. Doing so makes me extremely dizzy, and also causes my body to simply freeze in one spot so that I don’t fall over.

“As a result of my brand of MS, wearing a face mask is out of the question. I am also heat sensitive, and so masks and face shields can also cause me to get too warm, which in turn causes nausea and instability.”

She can, and does, wear a mask while seated, at least until her heat sensitivity kicks in; then she has to remove it.

Klassen carries a doctor’s note with her at all times, to gain entry into businesses or public spaces where masks are mandated. While the note is generally accepted by staff at such locations, it’s the public that reacts in a cruel fashion.

“Nobody asks to see the note,” said Klassen. “I just get glares, side looks of derision and even obvious disdain for my maskless state. I’ve even been yelled and sworn at for getting too close.”

She said one episode, in particular, frightened her to the point she will not visit that business again during the pandemic.

“[I was approached by] a very angry masked older gentleman who assumed I was a horrible person. He would not allow me to apologize, and only angrily retorted that I was not sorry… even though I attempted to assure him that I was.”

Klassen said she would gladly wear an identifying lanyard or something similar – something from official sources that people would recognize as a mask exemption for medical reasons – but currently there is nothing of the sort available.

“Perhaps a lanyard that could be worn that simply states ‘Face Mask Exempt’… which could only be obtained with a doctor’s note, just like handicapped placards are awarded,” said Klassen. “It won’t stop all the angry people from being angry… but perhaps it would allow me to walk into a store or public place with less fear that I will be misunderstood, or yelled at simply because my disability precludes me from wearing a face mask or face shield.”

North Island medical health officer, Dr. Charmaine Enns, sympathizes with Klassen’s case and says her situation is not unique.

“There are a number of different reasons why someone will not or can not wear a mask,” said Enns. “However, most of the population now is wearing masks, especially indoors so it is important that we not stigmatize or shame those who are not wearing masks. Many will have a legitimate reason.”

Klassen understands the stigma all too well, and admits even she struggles when seeing others without masks on.

“When I see a young person not wearing a mask, even my pre-conceived notion is ‘wow, they don’t care about this pandemic. They think it’s a hoax.’ Then I stop and think, hey wait a minute; maybe they have a legitimate reason for not wearing a mask,” she said. “So I get why people would think that about me.”

Most of all, Klassen wants people to take Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mantra to heart.

“I know it is often said by Dr. Bonnie Henry to ‘Be Kind.’ I’m afraid that message is not reaching some folks, and I am becoming tired of keeping my head down, avoiding eye contact with those wearing masks, simply because I cannot participate with such things,” said Klassen. “I care deeply about others. I want to be able to smile at strangers without them thinking I’m just being cocky and arrogant. I care about your health, and I never want to be considered to be one who doesn’t take this pandemic seriously. ”

ALSO: Comox Valley governments ‘encouraging’ mask use, but will not mandate face masks



terry.farrell@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Comox ValleyCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Kathleen Klassen can, and does, wear a mask while seated, at least until her heat sensitivity kicks in; then she has to remove it. Photo by Terry Farrell

Kathleen Klassen can, and does, wear a mask while seated, at least until her heat sensitivity kicks in; then she has to remove it. Photo by Terry Farrell

Just Posted

Rogan is a three-year-old border collie who has an 'incredible bond' between him and a family member. Photo by Erin Haluschak
‘Incredible bond’ credited for dog who assisted in emergency

Three-year-old dog Rogan came to the rescue of a family member who fell

A map of Comox Valley schools. Screenshot, Fraser Institute
Comox Valley schools near mid-pack in Fraser Institute rankings

A few schools went up or down a few points, but most came in with similar marks

Last year, the Sharing the Christmas Spirit Hamper Program operated at the old St. Joseph’s Hospital site. File photo
Christmas hamper program finds space in Courtenay

An annual Christmas hamper program in the Comox Valley has found a… Continue reading

During a public hearing in November, a Comox resident proposed the idea of a roundabout at the intersection of Lerwick and McDonald Roads. Google Maps photo
Comox development get the green light

The development - at 2309 McDonald Rd. - received third reading at the most recent council meeting

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

The Blackberry Lane Children’s Centre outgrown its space in the back of the Denman Island Community Hall. Photo supplied
Denman Island to have new preschool with metal roof

Thanks to a local government grant and community support, the Denman Island… Continue reading

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read