Cancer families struggle to find medical masks amid coronavirus outbreak

Updated: Mar. 6, 2020 at 7:37 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Medical masks are in high demand due to the coronavirus outbreak. The shortage is causing a panic among families who have children that rely on them to stay healthy.

According to the Surgeon General, healthy people do not need to wear a mask unless they are tending to someone with the virus.

Landon Hartman is 8-years-old. He’s fighting an aggressive brain cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. His mom, Nikki Byars, says the chemo wipes out his immune system.

“Even the common cold just affects them so much different because his immune system is crashed,” Byars said.

Because he is more susceptible to germs, Byars takes extra precautions at their house and Landon wears a Vogmask every time he leaves home.

“Since we got diagnosed, I don’t let him kiss me anymore,” Byars said. “And you know it’s hard, but you got to do what you got to do.”

The extra precautions seem to be working. Since wearing a Vogmask, Landon hasn’t been hospitalized except for scheduled chemo treatments.

The Vogmask he wears last about three months, his mom said. He is due for a new one, but because of the high demand amid the coronavirus outbreak, she can’t get him a new one.

“I’ve been trying to order since like mid-February and I can’t get my hands on one,” Byars said. “All the families [cancer families] that are going through this. We need them. You know, we absolutely need them.”

She says she has tried to purchase the masks on various sites, and they are either out of stock or on back order. eBay has the Vogmasks listed anywhere from two to three times the typical price.

“We’re full force doing this [caring for Landon] and money’s tight. I can’t go on eBay and spend $150 on a mask because someone decided to be selfish,” Byars said.

Byars says she plans to try another brand if possible, otherwise she has a few surgical masks as back up.

Protecting Landon from germs ensures his little bit of freedom outside the hospital.

“We don’t want to get to a point where we have to stay home 24/7,” Byars said. “You never know with cancer, how many days you have and we want to enjoy everyone that we can.”

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