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Pediatric pulmonologist cites cystic fibrosis community, encouraging masks at school

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 8:51 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A pediatric pulmonologist with Ascension Via Christi’s cystic fibrosis clinic says the CF community has proven that masks are a safe, effective way to reduce the transmission of germs. She encourages students to choose to wear a mask this school year.

Siblings Amelie and Elliott McNeil both have cystic fibrosis, a condition that makes them particularly vulnerable to respiratory infection.

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases, their mother Julie McNeil is making choices to protect her children.

Amelie did kindergarten from home last year, and so did her older brother. They will learn online again this year to try to avoid the spread of the delta variant.

“It worries me,” said Julie McNeil.

Elliott says he misses seeing his friends at school, but the McNeil family works to stay positive.

The pandemic has been tough on all kids – who have dealt with changes to life and school – but it’s especially tough on the medically vulnerable.

Elliott and Amelie get checked out at the cystic fibrosis clinic at Ascension Via Christi about once a quarter.

Dr. Apeksha Sathyaprasad, a pediatric pulmonologist, wears a gown, gloves, and mask when she sees patients.

Masks and social distancing were routine for families in the CF community even before the pandemic, and Dr. Sathyaprasad said CF patients are proof masks work.

“It’s a very safe way and effective way to prevent transmission of germs,” said Dr. Sathyaprasad.

She encourages kids to give masks a try this school year, even if it is uncomfortable at first.

“The important thing to understand is it’s not affecting their lungs. It’s not affecting their oxygenation or their ability to breathe. It’s just a feeling of restlessness that eventually most kids do get used to with proper training and education,” said Dr. Sathyaprasad.

The McNeil family asks you to consider Elliott and Amelie this school year.

“Taking precautions is really an empowering choice we can make […] to protect the vulnerable in our community,” said McNeil.

She urges people to get vaccinated and wear a mask.

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