Diary of a Phase 1 Pediatrician Visit

My family has taken COVID-19 precautions very seriously; my husband has only left the house for essential outings, and my son and I haven’t left the house in two months except for the occasional masked walk around the neighborhood. My son is “high-risk,” or a kidney, heart, and lung disease warrior as I like to think of it. We know all too well what it looks like to see your child fight for their life, and have been in our own version of quarantine for the past couple of years (yes, I said years) trying to keep our son out of the hospital from the common cold, much less COVID-19. Raising a child with chronic illness and disabilities is a lifelong journey of weighing out risks and benefits, and our latest struggle has been deciding when to renew our son’s doctors appointments.

We missed his four year old well visit and vaccinations two months ago because of COVID-19, and after discussing it with our Pediatrician, we decided it was time to get him in for his annual visit. Here’s what it looked like:

Making the Visit:

We were able to use the MyChart App by Epic to schedule the appointment, verify our information, and pre-check in. We were also given the option to enable “location recognition” on our mobile device so the office would know when we arrived — an effort to limit contact. We opted in for this.

Day Before:

We were sent visit instructions via the message center in the App. Only one parent is allowed, you must wear a mask, and no one in the household can be sick.

Day Of:

Our son is a wheelchair user, but we decided to use a stroller for the appointment instead because we have a plastic rain cover for it. I used the rain cover for protection in lieu of a mask because my four year old son will not keep a mask on his face for obvious reasons. I wore a cloth mask, and brought extra disposable masks with me along with plenty of sanitizing wipes.

The parking lot was partially blocked off (to limit crowding, I assume), and I parked plenty of spaces away from the nearest cars. There were large signs around the parking lot with a number to call to state your arrival while you waited in the car. Since I opted in for the “location recognition,” the App alerted me to push a button to confirm my arrival. The other individuals in the parking lot were wearing masks, and I saw one other child in a stroller with the plastic rain cover.

Upon entering the building, I was asked a series of questions about my recent activity, contacts, and health, and given a contactless temperature check by someone wearing masks and gloves. The front desk had plastic shields in between me and the staff member who was also wearing a mask and gloves. There was also a long table of PPE and had sanitizer for staff and patients. Once I was cleared to enter the building, I was directed to the waiting room, where designated “off limits” chairs were covered in signs keeping individuals 6 feet apart. There weren’t very many patients in the waiting area, so it wasn’t hard to keep our distance.

We were quickly summoned in for our visit, where signs were visibly placed on the surfaces that had just been disinfected. Every staff member was wearing a mask or a mask and gloves when needed.

The hardest part of the day was wrestling my (3 foot 1 inch!) toddler to sit still for his physical exam and vaccines. I felt very safe, and am more at ease for his upcoming and necessary specialist visits.

I hope that this helps depict what an upcoming appointment may look like for you, and maybe even give you information that can help in your decision making when it comes to scheduling appointments for you and your children.

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Cristina Perez is a firm believer that while life is complicated, that is what makes it beautiful. A born and raised New Orleanian and fierce disability advocate, Cristina is a singer, activist, writer and mother to three-year-old “Oskie” — her son with a rare disease. With a mission of giving a louder voice to mothers of children with disabilities and rare diseases, Cristina creates original music inspired by untraditional motherhood, positivity and inclusivity for all. Her latest single, “Lessons I’ve Learned” was released in 2019, as an uplifting anthem for mothers to turn to when things get tough – a motivation to remain strong despite what life throws at you. Cristina also authors a popular blog called “It’s Not Too Complicated,” where she breaks down the trials and tribulations of medically complex motherhood, marriage and everyday life while using her voice to promote rare disease awareness.

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