With the viral pandemic raging across the country, it’s a selected chunk of population who put the needs of the society above themselves and tries to do their bit. One such man is Dr Hakkim who has designed a Corona face mask custom made for vocally challenged and hearing impaired people. He has now been invited by the government of TN to collaborate and produce a larger quantity of masks available to the deaf and dumb population for free. Excerpts from a phone interview with the physician:
1. What inspired you to create this mask?
As a doctor Im exposed to the deaf and dumb on a daily basis.One day when treating an Out Patient, he insisted that I remove my face mask to talk to him as he was hearing impaired. He was unable to understand what I said as my mouth was covered by the mask. Watching him struggle to write down every sentence to communicate with me was painful. His plight became my prime motivator to find an alternative way to safeguard his health as a doctor but also reduce his discomfort as a human
2. How did you make the mask?
I wanted to make a mask that was both affordable and safe for all differently abled people. After a lot of R&D with the ENT department, we came up with an idea to take out the centre portion of the regular N95 mask and replace it with a high GSM biodegradable plastic material. The result was the 5 layer N95 mask that has now been launched. We are happy to announce that approved by ICMR council has approved and sent the masks to the TN government who are now collaborating with me to produce 81,000 masks that will be made avaialble to 13000 deaf and dumb people for free.
3. You have used eco-friendly plastic around the mouth area. How effective would it be in keeping the virus away?
I would like to clear the air here and say that the possibility of Corona infection is reduced only when both the parties wear a face mask and maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet. That being said, the biodegradable plastic material of the mask contains 5 layers that are ironed together in such a way that they prevent microbes or even moisture from entering the nasal area. We have conducted experiments using the mask under different stimuli and environmental conditions and have observed that the threat of Corona infection or even any possible side effects of using the plastic material are close to nil. This is one of the main reasons the mask was approved by the ICMR council.
4. When did you realise your work has paid off?
I have made it a habit to donate a part of my earnings to charity from a young age. This time, I invested the amount into developing this mask for the aid of the deaf and dumb. When we were testing the mask on a subject I made sure my presence was always there around the subject as I did not want anyone to go through any health problems because of the mask. When the experiment was successful and my mask was approved by the ICMR, I felt a sense of satisfaction in having made a small contribution towards society.
5. What was the best compliment you received till now?
The man on whom we tested the mask was a vocally challenged person. He and his daughter were facing the same situation. Once the experiment was done, he thanked me for making life easier for him.That, to me, was the biggest compliment ever.I’m hoping that the mask reaches every disabled person in the state for free. Then I would say with certainty that my vision is a success.
6. What was your family’s reaction to this?
My father is a renowned neurologist in Trichy. He was the first doctor from our village. When I first presented the idea to him, he requested me to make the product easily accessible and affordable to everyone.I took his wishes one step further and made the maks available free of cost to the differently abled.
7. How do you envision helping society moving forward?
Ive often noticed that doctors today use a lot of complicated technical terms which patients find very hard to follow. This creates a sense of panic in their minds and makes the patient disillusioned to actually trying to understand the root cause of their problems. I would want to author and publish medical books explained in regional languages such that even the common man gets a basic idea of any type of disease and what to do about it. I hope that more doctors will adapt to this method in the years to come.
8. As a doctor how long do you think the COVID 19 situation will persist in TamilNadu?
The disease as we know it is mostly asymptomatic in India. Therefore we have a particular reign over the number of affected people and also the causality rates. At this rate, we are expecting India to experience a second wave of COVID. Since most people who are asymptomatic (ie) don’t experience any symptoms generally related to the virus, the chances of it spreading at rapid rates is very minimal. The second wave would mostly be weaker in comparison to the first. In other words, we can say that the worst is behind us already.
9. What would be your advice for people post lockdown?
For the next six months, I would advise everyone to take utmost measures to wear face masks, wash hands, use sanitizers and maintain a minimum social distance of 6 feet. The pandemic is expected to swing back and forth till the end of this year. In short it’s always better to be safe than to expose yourself to possible Corona
10. What is your view on the governmental precautions taken? Do you think any particular aspect can be done better by the government?
In my opinion I feel that the government has pulled off an amazing feat in keeping the overall social health above everything else.If you have noticed, you can see that Red zones are gradually turning to Orange zones and the Orange zones are turning into green zones. Taking control of a vast expanse of areas and bringing most of them to a stable state is a formidable feat. However We, as a society, still lag a little with managing our housekeepers. I would strongly suggest we make sure our house helps and other housekeeping related people are made to follow standard hygiene procedures to avoid any unwanted infection