Can I Have a Mask

A frontline medical worker is torn between his responsibilities as a doctor and a dad as he grapples with his decision to re-use an old N95 mask in the early weeks of the pandemic.

Director’s Vision

My brother is eight years older than me. I’ve never seen him fearful of anything, until one night in March when he called me after his shift. He wasn’t afraid of the virus or the looming shutdowns, but after a long day of treating COVID patients, he was terrified to come home. Even though he was taking every precaution, he was afraid that he might come home and infect his eighteen month old daughter or his wife, who was thirty-two weeks pregnant. He’d shower after work, wash his scrubs every night. They even rented an apartment across the street in case he got COVID in the weeks proceeding his wife’s due date. The strangest thing to me, though, was that he kept a reused N95 mask in his backpack. There was already a severe shortage of PPE nationwide, and he knew it was only going to get worse.

That night he couldn’t sleep, so he channeled his fears and anxiety into an essay. It was incredibly moving, and many encouraged him to publish it. Like most healthcare providers, though, he knew he could lose his job for speaking out. So I called a friend of mine, and we went to work.

Over the past seven months, our small team of students and recent grads rallied around this project. I was shocked at how many people were willing to volunteer their time to get this project off the ground, and it’s because of their hard work that this film exists today.

“Can I Have a Mask” explores the human side of medicine by attempting to understand the decision-making our healthcare workers are forced to grapple with due to inadequate PPE. Though the film is set in March, it’s unfortunately still relevant today. Eight months after the outbreak, many healthcare providers are still required to re-use their N95 masks.

If you’d like to donate to the PPE relief effort, please consider Get Us PPE, a grassroots movement dedicated to providing free PPE to underserved and under resourced communities.

getusppe.org

Throughout this process, my brother continued to write. Two of his essays are now published in the New England Journal of Medicine.