Saturday, May 9, 2020

Hindsight Will Be... 2020


Around the end of April, Maine's Governor, Janet Mills, announced her plan to "Restart Maine's Economy" with a multiphase process of reopening specific businesses and industries over the next few months. With this announcement came the excitement of life returning to some semblance of "business as usual."

For me, however... I'm hesitant to jump on the bandwagon.

The novel coronavirus that is causing the disease COVID-19 has rampaged its way across the world, leaving 275,000 dead in its wake as of this writing. Whenever you hear or see the word "novel," in this context, remember that it is an adjective meaning "new or unusual."

Previous coronaviruses have been or are still in the process of being studied, with researchers finding patterns and being able to predict how they will change and affect those that contract them.

This new, unusual, novel coronavirus has been unpredictable. There is new information almost daily about its disease symptoms, number of strains, how long it survives on various surfaces, and its movements through communities. It is mutating at a rapid rate and it remains unclear if antibodies are preventing reinfections. It is affecting populations both young and old and every age in-between.

There is still so much we don't know.


Perhaps the most jarring development came around April 22, 2020 -- my 32nd birthday: the discovery that people ages 30-60 were dropping from strokes, even when they had seemed otherwise healthy.

A stroke is a cerebrovascular accident caused by interrupted blood flow to one or more parts of the brain. In these cases, we are looking at ischemic strokes -- where the development of a blood clot along an arterial wall (thrombus) blocks the blood flow or a "loose" clot (embolus) travels through the blood stream before getting lodged into too-small a space.

Anticoagulants -- drugs that prevent or limit the blood from clotting -- are useful treatments in the short-term, but can cause bleeding, bruising, and other problems in patients already dealing with a compromised system. Furthermore, the "risk of recurrent stroke is likely to be elevated (and lifelong)." (Tracy Walton's Medical Conditions and Massage Therapy: A Decision Tree Approach, 2011.)

There is a lot more science and research around conditions like pulmonary embolism, atherosclerosis, and deep vein thrombosis -- I couldn't possibly cover all of them enough to do them justice. This is why I rely on current research and the advice of massage industry leaders who have experience in pathology.

Their bottom line: "Any disorder associated with the potential for lodged or traveling clots contraindicates circulatory massage." (Ruth Werner's A Massage Therapist's Guide to Pathology, Fourth Edition, 2009.)

Many patients that test positive for the novel coronavirus are asymptomatic -- meaning, they appear perfectly healthy without a fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, or other symptoms. Again, we are seeing reports of new and unusual symptoms almost daily.

So where does that leave us?




If we go back to the governor's plan, Maine is currently on-track to reopen massage facilities in Stage 3 -- around July and August, should everything go well. The state is slowly rolling out industry-specific COVID-19 Prevention Checklists. There isn't one for massage, yet, but browsing the considerations for hair salons -- as I've had previous experience working in one -- is overwhelming and disheartening.

I also watched Healwell's free resource of "Back to Practice Guidelines (In Practice)," which is massage-specific.

It's depressing.

As I sat in my office and looked around, I experienced a visceral grief response to all the things I would have to change.

A lot of the little things that made my office into my own little sanctuary are not in-compliance with current infection prevention guidelines. My cloth effects -- the wall hangings and curtains -- will have to come down. Extra knick-knacks will have to be put away or put out-of-reach. I can't have a bowl of mints out on the side table. I need to buy new covers for my table and face rest, along with a HEPA filter. I will have to use more single-use materials, such as gloves -- if I can even find them for purchase. I will have to buy new clothing -- items that button- or snap-up -- and change them between each client. I may have to buy and wear goggles. There's going to be a lot more laundry to be done.


I'm going to have to ask a lot of my clients, too. You will have to wear a mask, even when you are face-down. You may have to walk across a towel or some other floor covering between the chair and the massage table. You might not be able to receive massage to your hands or scalp.

With new policies and new procedures, do I have you fill out digital forms or paper forms?

With all of the extra, new expenses, are you willing to pay more for your massage services?

And if I receive the call that a previous client tested positive for the coronavirus, what is that going to mean for you? What might that mean for your loved ones?

"But Massage is Essential!"


You are not going to die from not having a massage.

My work as a massage therapist is not even close to the same echelon as my cousin's work as a medical assistant.

It is my ethical responsibility to first, do no harm.

I cannot reasonably guarantee that my work will do no harm, nor can I reasonably guarantee that any and all precautions I put into place will keep all of us safe while you're in my office. I can't control or sanitize the world outside my doors.

I can only make my office as "COVID-safe as possible." I want to be able to say, "I did everything I could do."

In the meantime... I wait. I learn and I observe. I watch colleagues give their notices to their landlords because it's not safe for them to massage. I watch other colleagues rail against their governing bodies to have massage facilities open up sooner.

It has been a wholly polarizing experience.

There is still so much we don't know.


I can only make decisions for myself and the sake of my clients. Right now, I am choosing to wait. If you decide to take your business elsewhere, I understand. Please reach out to me if you have any outstanding gift certificate balances.

I appreciate your patience during these tumultuous times. Stay safe, and stay well.




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