The moulding of my face mask at Waikato Hospital 13 March 2024

Like many people, I have always suffered from claustrophobia, and I attended my mask fitting with a heightened degree of anxiety and apprehension. I was so wrong.

The two young ladies welcomed my wife and I and we sat down. They worked as a team and explained the procedure clearly. I told them of my concerns, and they reassured me that it was perfectly normal to have those feelings and it was their job to assist me to overcome this. They asked me if I had any favourite music and offered to play it for me on their sound system using Spotify. I chose The Sounds of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel. (You might be able to give them a pen with a playlist) Having heard on this site about a lady’s husband having a mild sedative I asked if I could have one. A nurse soon appeared with a Lorazepam tablet.

They first asked me to lay down on the procedure bed and they took a mold of the back of my head to make a pillow. While that was being done, they put the basic flat mask into an oven to soften. When it was taken out of the oven, I was asked to feel the warmth to check if it was okay temperature-wise. Then they gently placed it on my face using their fingertips to softly mold it to my face and neck. I think they secured the mask then to the bed.

The sensation of four hands carefully pressing the mask onto the contours of my face and neck was very therapeutic and combined with my favourite music being played, was very soothing and my anxieties shrunk to nothing. All the time they were talking softly to me. After 8 minutes they removed the mask to give me a break before continuing for another 8 minutes with the mask compressed a little firmer to my face. I could breathe easily, and the time went quickly. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, thanks to the medication and the friendly professional manner of the two young ladies. But you must tell them of your anxieties, even if you are a rough, tough mountain man. 

There is no shame in showing fear of something strange and scary.

Ian Henderson