30 January 2013

The Masquerade - Part IV

I was scheduled to head out to the village last Saturday to finally pull Y.'s face mask.  But, as is common in these parts, plans changed at the last minute.  J. and I flexed to the reality of life in Niger and decided we'd try again on Monday . . . only this time, Y. would come to me.

Borrowing the kitchen, dining room and living room of my favorite Niamey peeps, I spread my tools out and waited for J. to arrive with Y. and her dad in tow.

Finally, the moment of truth arrived.

So, the question of the week has been 'What exactly does it mean to pull a mask?'  Which I think it just a polite way of letting me know that this isn't stuff normal people do!

Well, since you asked!

You start with a sheet of plastic like this:

And then you throw it in an oven for a little while until it gets hot and pliable.  Then you apply some leverage and all the force you can muster and literally pull the plastic down over the plaster mold like this: 

And once it's taken the general form of the face, it's important to use a heat gun to try and hide as many of your mistakes as possible . . . I mean . . . uh . . . to smooth the creases formed by the imperfect stretching-the-plastic-by-hand-when-it's-maybe-not-as-hot-as-it-should-have-been process:

When the imprint of the face is satisfactory, remove the plastic from the plaster, and smile for the camera:

Being sure to wear safety goggles--cause it's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye--carefully trim the excess plastic from the edges of the mask . . . without amputating any fingers (that part is harder than it looks!):
(in the words a wise friend, every girl should have a Dremel)

 At times, this process may require extra hands . . . I highly recommend utilizing J., she's a quick learner:

Using a rotary tool, cut appropriately sized holes for the eyes, nose and mouth . . . remember, you do what your patient to be able to breathe, speak, and see.  Be sure all the edges are smooth and not digging or cutting into the patient's skin.  Double check the scar areas to be sure that there is adequate pressure being applied.  Add straps to secure around the head:

***Yes, Y. was present and participatory through the entire process . . . however, I promised her that any photos taken of her would only be used for educational purposes and her privacy and dignity maintained.

1 comment:

Chantelle McIver said...

Very excited to see your work and hear of Y's desire to work with you. You are such a blessing! Hope to see you again next year when we return from furlough!
Chantelle McIver