By Douglas V. Gibbs

I am unable to wear a face mask during the COVID-19 scamdemic.  While, politically, I wouldn’t wear one even if I could, the reality is I have a medical exemption that has created some very interesting scenarios, and a Catch 22 that nobody seems to appreciate.  
I am an 80% disabled military veteran who receives most of my medical care through the Veteran’s Administration medical facilities.  In March, when this COVID-19 thing got going to the point that the mass paranoia had gripped all points of the globe, I tried wearing a mask five times.  Three of those instances I became dizzy to the point of throwing up, and two of those times I went into five-hour episodes of vertigo.  I have a history of vertigo due to the left-temporal fracture I incurred while in the United States Navy, so the personal sit and spin session was not a surprise.
The damage from the injury back when I was a young sailor in the military caused extensive scar tissue on the left side of my brain, bruising on the right side, and audio nerve damage on the left side that has left me deaf in my left ear and plagued with a constant ringing in that ear.  I also suffer nerve damage that has left me with a mild case of a left-side facial palsy, left knee issues, and a neck that drives me nuts (a secondary injury from the head trauma that, to this day, the VA refuses to recognize as one of the companion culprits from my service connected accident).  Since then, about six years ago, I suffered a back injury while driving a sand and gravel truck, as well, of which I was denied any worker’s compensation benefits because they believed I had pre-existing conditions thanks to my old military injuries that were not related to my back in any way, and because they filmed me acting totally normal dumping my trash while I was on pain killers.
The back injury has left me with a whole new set of obstacles in life, which, when added to my balance issues, has left me walking with a cane.
The head injury has always provided for me challenges when it comes to balance.  I have joked that I hope I never get pulled over for a DUI because I can’t walk a straight line.  As I have gotten older my system is finding it harder to compensate, so a variety of new challenges are appearing.  A few years ago among the newcomers to my life was vertigo, a nice little condition that sends me into a five hour personal spin session that is beyond horrible and usually leaves me begging God for an early death.
Now, it turns out that wearing a face mask can trigger my vertigo, too, and wearing a face shield makes me dizzy to the point where I want to puke.  So, to figure out what is going on, I contacted my Veteran’s Administration medical folks and eventually got a referral to neurology so that we can figure out why face masks are pretty much an impossible fashionwear for me.
A couple weeks ago when I went to the VA facility in La Jolla, California (nudged right up against San Diego) it took me forty-five minutes to get into the compound because I can’t wear a mask.  The rules are, no mask, no entry.  But, my appointment was for the purpose of figuring out why I can’t wear a mask.  “See the irony?” I asked the lady blocking my entry.
“Do you have paperwork showing you have this disability?” she asked.
“I hope to by the end of the day if I can just get in in the first place,” I snapped back.
Eventually, they wheeled me by wheelchair to the back entrance by the spinal cord area because the elevators are near the back entrance doors, and that would expose me to as few people as possible.
As if I had the plague, or something.
Once I was wheeled up to the neurology department the lady behind the glass, wearing a mask, advised me that I could not go in without a mask.
Here we go again.
“I can’t wear a mask, and part of the reason I am here is to try and figure out why wearing a mask causes all kinds of problems for me.”
“Well,” she said in a condescending tone, “the rules are, no mask, no entry.”
I laughed.  “Do you people not see the ridiculousness, here?  I am here to seek medical attention to find out why I can’t wear a mask, but you are not admitting me because I have no mask on my face.”
“Let me talk to my administrator,” she said, before vanishing through a door on the far side of the dark room.
After she came back she advised me I can only come in without face protection if I stay in the wheelchair, someone from the facility wheels me in, and the neurologist has been advised to wear extra protection.  When I was wheeled into the room, she was wearing a mask and a face shield.
I was advised that originally they had tried to call me to change my appointment to a video call appointment.
“Then,” I asked, “how would you examine me?”
I got no answer.  She then asked me a barrage of questions, and then, yes, physically examined me.
She then advised me that a recent (CAT) scan of my brain revealed a twisting blood vessel and a growth on the audio nerve near where it entered my brain.  She wanted me to get some bloodwork, and an MRI, so that she could check a few things.  We thanked her, and then a medical assistant wheeled me back out in my wheelchair.
Upon attempting to get my bloodwork done, they would not let me back in unless I wear a face mask.
So, we went home.
A week later we called a VA clinic closer to our home to ask if I could get the bloodwork done at that facility.  They said, “Yes.”  I then explained I cannot wear a mask.
No mask, no entry,” she said.
“Are you saying,” I asked, “that if I don’t wear a mask I can’t get the care I need to figure out why I can’t wear a mask?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Yes, you did.”
“Tell you what, let me talk to an administrator to find out what to do.  She’ll call you back with the answer.”
That was two days ago.
The MRI people had the same response.  They are not sure if they can let me in without a mask, either, unless an administrator gives the okay, you know, so that I can get an MRI to help us figure out why I can’t wear a mask.
Why does it take an administrator who does not know my medical history to approve my entry?  And, even more important, do they not see the Catch 22 they have me in when it comes to all of this?  I can’t find out why I can’t wear a mask unless I wear a mask to attend the tests offered for the purpose of figuring out why I can’t wear a mask.
Dizzying, to say the least.
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