Transplant patient urges everyone to wear a mask

Posted at 11:27 PM, Jul 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-02 23:27:50-04

INDIANAPOLIS — "I know what my doctors tell me from IU is what I have to do. They're the experts. I wish more people would just listen to the doctors."

That plea from a woman who said wearing a mask can mean the difference between life and death for someone like her. Nikkie Foster is a double lung transplant recipient and her plea comes as Marion County prepares to mandate masks starting July 9 to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"If you were put in somebody's shoes, my shoes, immunocompromised, you'd want people to be nice just for the courtesy of humanity, just to put a mask on," Foster said.

Foster feels strongly about the issue because for nearly five years, staying healthy has been her top priority so she can be around for her family.

"My youngest is 11," Foster said. "I was actually asked to help coach cheer for her this year, which is huge because I used to coach my middle daughter in cheer and then I had to stop when I got sick."

For Foster, the debate over wearing a mask feels a little trivial because she had interstitial pneumonia which damaged her lungs over the course of about four and a half years.

"I had 16 percent lung capacity so I kinda know what it's like to not be able to breathe," Foster said. "People can just pull their masks down for a quick second and get a breath, pull it back up."

To get the message across about social distancing and wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors at IU Health made shirts for their transplant patients which say, 'Please stay back or wear a mask. Transplant patient hard at work.'

"I saw the shirt and was like, 'I have to have that,'" Foster said. "I have to have that because it's amazing. I'll see people read it and they'll kind of back up if they aren't wearing a mask or I'll have people come up and say, 'You're a transplant recipient? So am I.' And then we'll discuss what's going on in the world with corona."

Foster said she hopes the shirt and her message get people thinking about how they can potentially save lives if they choose to wear a mask.

"This is temporary for most people," Foster said. "Most people will get back to life and living when this is under control, but I'll never get back to not wearing a mask. I'll always have it on."