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

Karilyn, right, with her older sister, Sabrina. Both siblings are members of the YANA family, after being helped by the community organization on separate occasions. Photo supplied
Siblings both members of the YANA family

Comox Valley non-profit helped Geiger family on separate occasions

A second-floor balcony continues to smoulder after a fire extinguisher was used to get a small balcony fire under control at the Washington Inn Apartments. Brian Hayward, who lives on the third floor, was alerted to the fire by the smell of smoke wafting into his apartment. Photo by Brian Hayward.
Courtenay firefighters respond to balcony fire at Washington Inn Apartments

Firefighters were called out to the Washington Inn Apartments Sunday, April 17,… Continue reading

RCMP forensics investigators scour the site north of Highland School in Comox, where multiple people were stabbed during a party Saturday night, April 16. Photo by Terry Farrell
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Comox bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault near Highland Secondary

Cumberland is surrounded by trees — and logging. Its council is supporting a call to stop old-growth logging in vulnerable areas of the province such as Fairy Creek. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Cumberland backs request to save B.C.’s old-growth forests

The Comox Youth Climate Council is asking local governments to take stand

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Valley woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

First in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

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

The following is a list of restaurants offering take-out and patio dining. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
List of Comox Valley restaurants offering take-out, patio dining options

Restaurants in the Comox Valley continue to adapt to government-imposed restrictions in… Continue reading

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Rules against RV living hard on Island residents caught in housing crunch

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Most Read