I try to make it a point to check in on my best friend and my family weekly. But when life gets busy, those weekly calls sometimes turn into bi-weekly or even monthly calls. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has taken over everyone’s lives, though, we are in constant communication with each other.   

My best friend Angela was 10 years old when her family relocated from Colombia to the United States. She didn’t know a lick of English and went from living a life of luxury to living in a small apartment in New Jersey. By the time we met in 8th grade, we immediately formed a bond that remains unbroken.

Throughout middle school, Angela always spoke about wanting to become a doctor. By the time we reached high school, her prowess for all things science became apparent as she sliced open a frog during our AP Biology class. I stood beside her and immediately became nauseous. Twenty years later, Angela is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, running a family medical practice in New Jersey.  

In early March, I asked Angela how she was coping with everything going on in the world. And although it was an iMessage conversation, I could sense her “sigh” reply meant that she wasn’t coping very well. As many people across the country were busy hoarding medical grade face masks, apparently no one was thinking about the medical professionals who would actually need them. 

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People are in panic mode, hoarding equipment meant to keep medical professionals safe.”

Angela went on to explain that her practice didn’t have N95 masks, and barely had any procedure masks left. And to make matters worse, it was nearly impossible for her to find any for purchase. Not only did the thought of her not having protection scare me, but it also prompted me to ask my family members if they were protected. 

 Luckily for me, I have another doctor friend who knew where I could get masks. He had a connection in Vegas who knew someone. I thought to myself, this is really some underground maneuvering. But I was willing to see what I could find. Shortly after texting his connect, I received a response.

The person on the other end of the messages informed me they could procure masks with no problem. What I wasn’t expecting was a 500% mark-up. But when times are hard, of course, there are those who are looking to make a profit, so I probably shouldn’t have been so naive.  

I texted my son and a couple of other family members to let them know I found masks. I informed my best friend that I would be sending some to help her out. In the end, I probably paid the equivalent of a monthly car payment to make sure my loved ones were safe.  

Those masks won’t last forever. People are in panic mode, hoarding equipment meant to keep medical professionals safe. I get it; this is a frightening time. But please, leave the N95 surgical masks for those who need them the most: the people on the front lines trying to save lives.