The Reason I Wear a Mask

Billy Philips, Ph.D. and his son

The reason I wear a mask isn’t to protect you or me, even though it should be. I wear a mask to protect my son, Joel, who has Down syndrome. In many ways, he is the most healthy and functional person that I know. Oh, he has his faults: like most teens he plays music I don’t like and watches too many movies. Yet, every day he does his best to live and be happy; and that’s enough. He knows how the world works and he knows how to get what he needs. He is quite simply a joyful guy and innocent beyond anything I could ever achieve this side of heaven. He is my inspiration and my hero. He’s the reason I wear a mask.

Billy Philips, Ph.D. wearing a mask

You should know that when I see any of you out in public without a mask, I wish you could have the opportunity to meet Joel. If you got to know him, my guess is you would not want to put him at risk. It really doesn’t matter what your reason is for not wanting to wear a mask. I can tell you that if Joel saw you without one, he’d probably offer his to you. Then he’d give you a smile that would make you wish you’d considered him and others more than whatever reason you hold for not wearing a mask.  

One thing Joel and I know is that life isn’t fair. It’s not fair that God chose me to be Joel’s Dad.  To know the grit that is a gift to Joel and to me. It’s not fair that I get to talk everyday with him and hear his stories about little things that put my day in perspective. It’s not fair that COVID-19 has helped me realize what a privilege it is to hug your son or to share a meal in person or to go to a movie in a theater. Some might say it’s not fair that Joel has Down syndrome and that those like him are 10 times more likely to die if they get COVID-19 than the general population.  

It’s not fair that I have the joy of protecting my son and others at higher risk simply by wearing a mask. Every day, I have the awesome privilege and sacred duty to put on my mask and save lives. No, life isn’t fair. It is precious and I know if you’re reading this that you know just how much Joel means to me. Please wear your mask.

Billy Philips, Ph.D., is the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) executive vice president for Rural and Community Health.

In findings that could place another group onto the COVID at-risk list, researchers in the United Kingdom estimated in a research letter published that adults with Down syndrome are at almost five times the risk for COVID-19–related hospitalization and 10 times the risk for related death. The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and led by researchers from the University of Oxford.

Related Stories

TTUHSC’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Hosts Student Research Week

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences hosted its 34th Annual Student Research Week March 8-11.

TTUHSC Researcher Receives NIH Grant to Study Vulnerabilities in Specific Cancer Types

The National Cancer Institute awarded a five-year, $1.9 million grant to C. Patrick Reynolds, M.D., Ph.D., director for the School of Medicine Cancer Center at TTUHSC.

The Hype Around Artificial Intelligence

Richard Greenhill, DHA, FISQua, FACHE, discusses the hype and reality surrounding AI in healthcare.

Recent Stories

Education

TTUHSC Class of 2022 Honored at Commencement Ceremonies

The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) recently hosted traditional commencement ceremonies for its 1,595-member Class of 2022.

Education

TTUHSC Announces the Julia Jones Matthews School of Population and Public Health

The school, which is the sixth at the university, aims to train future health care leaders in population and public health.

Education

TTUHSC Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy Class of 2022 Honored at Commencement Ceremony

The TTUHSC Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy celebrated the Class of 2022 May 21 with its annual commencement ceremony.