When the dread starts to set in, when it gets hard to breathe, I adjust my N95 mask and remind myself of this: I am the granddaughter of a man who worked the depths of Idaho mines and knew a thing or two about personal protective equipment (PPE) hell.
My challenges as an emergency medicine physician during a modern pandemic marked by PPE shortages that require me to wear a single-use mask for an entire shift pale in comparison. Every piece of protective equipment my grandfather wore in the fiery bowels of the earth was a hard-won victory. He and his fellow miners had to fight tooth and nail to wear safety gloves, for example, because mine owners thought the time it took workers to remove and replace them slowed them down sufficiently that it cut too far into their profit margin. Lost fingers were just collateral damage in the wake of unmitigated greed.
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Harris EJ. Dressing Up. JAMA. 2020;324(7):633–634. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12779
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