23 Dec 2010


Ever since we started wearing masks, my mentor complained he could not recognize any student.

We adopted the policy of wearing masks in all clinical area after the SARS outbreak. While many colleagues were infected, DH was miraculously unaffected despite having seen the index patient. “We have to see a lot of patients with respiratory infections including tuberculosis everyday,” recalled the Professor of Respiratory Medicine. “It is our custom to wear masks during consultations.”

Now that we are so used to masks, it is easy to forget we do not even know what our colleagues look like.

Last week, a young lady called me at the hospital corridor. I looked at her and tried to hide my hesitation. Was she my patient? After a while, I finally realized she was the nurse who worked in my consultation room in the last two years. “Humph, I could not recognize you with the mask off,” I remarked rather awkwardly.

One day, a patient asked at the end of a consultation, “Doctor Wong, I have known you for years but have never seen your face. May you take off your mask?” I duly complied. Secretly, I was quite happy and recalled a scene from The Return of the Condor Heroes.

After a brief encounter, Yang Guo (楊過) granted Guo Xiang (郭襄) three wishes. Guo Xiang immediately made the first wish and requested Yang Guo to take off his mask. Yang Guo was not pleased. He thought Guo Xiang did not understand the value of his gift. As one of the greatest heroes at that time, he could perform the most difficult tasks and solve whatever problems she might have in the future. Guo Xiang disagreed, “How can I say I know you if I haven’t even seen your face? This is not trivial.”

May the piece of paper mask my face but not my heart.

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