One of my typical children had a follow-up appointment with an orthopeadic specialist last week. The doctor she see practices at the same hospital where most of Ronan’s specialists are. The appointment, even though on the books since last October, had to be rescheduled due to the lockdowns placed by the state. Like the restrictions we experienced with Ronan’s recent appointments, unless my child was experiencing a medical emergency, all visits were cancelled. While her issues are minor in comparison to Ronan’s, it was just as frustrating waiting for her medical care to resume.
Fortunately, once the state allowed “elective” appointments and procedures to once again be scheduled, we did not have to wait as long to get in as we’ve had to wait for Ronan’s team. I’m not sure why the ortho staff was able to get things moving faster than the other doctors. I wanted to ask but was too busy juggling everything else that’s been thrown at us, so I quickly accepted their next available appointment. Within days of getting the call that the clinic was back up and running, we made the two-hour trip to the hospital.
Before being allowed in, though, I had to answer some questions. The screening questions pertained to my daughter, the patient, not me:
Has your child been in contact with anyone with COVID-19, or has she herself been diagnosed with COVID-19?
Has your child recently had a rash…
loss of taste or smell…
discomfort or shortness of breath?
Replying no to her query, I didn’t ask the receptionist what if I had any of the symptoms she rattled off. I didn’t have any of them but thought it odd that the parent/caretaker’s health wasn’t also taken into consideration.
Massive changes have and will likely continue to be made at medical facilities. In just 3.5 weeks from when Ronan was there, I noticed that additional questions had been added to their screening checklist, like the ones about joint pain and the loss of smell and taste. Another new procedure had been added also.
Once we arrived at the building, we were to park, call the receptionist’s line, answer the questions above, then wait for a call. That call would come when we were allowed to proceed into the clinic. I’d been told by the scheduler when I made the appointment that we may even be escorted into the building, so have everything ready – insurance cards, child’s belongings, any orthopeadic equipment, etc., once we were cleared to enter. The changes since our visit with Ronan earlier this month were time consuming but manageable.
Since that visit, I noticed one new thing that remained the same: a temperature check, the need to wear masks and the requirement to sanitize our hands upon arriving to the door. As much as I did not feel we needed to wear masks, we are not sick, we accepted the ones we were offered by the parking lot attendant who was now manning the medical checkpoint at the door.
Last time, it was a nurse or med tech who was in charge of taking temperatures and providing day passes for all visitors (a date-stamped sticker indicating our destination). This time, we were greeted by my favorite person at that very large hospital – it’s an older fellow who’s always reminded me of my Dad. No matter the day or hour, this fellow is always there with his welcoming smile at the door we always go through. As comforted as I was to see him, I was taken aback that he was now conducting medical screenings. He’s the parking lot guy. He’s the friendly face who directs me to the right hallway. He’s the guy that will sometimes walk with me toward the elevator making sure I get to where I need to if he sees Ronan struggling. He’s the man I see for the few seconds before and after our many medical appointments. He’s not a nurse, med tech, or doctor, but here he was checking my health stats and my daughter’s. I’ve said it several times during this quarantine and am sure I will say it again, What odd times we are living!
Making our way to the ortho floor, I shook my head and muttered to myself. This is so weird, so wrong. We’re not sick, and if we were, we wouldn’t be here. “Mommy?” my daughter started. “Yes, honey?” I said refocusing on her. “What did you say?” she asked. “Oh, nothing. Mommy’s just frustrated that we’re being forced to follow rules that don’t make sense.” “Like wearing this mask?” she asked. “Yes, honey,” I told her, “like wearing that mask.” To have some sort of control over our own bodies, instead of using the chemical-based hand sanitizer we were asked to use after putting the masks on, I said we’d be using our own and sprayed our hands with a Thieves essential oil spray I carry. If there’s one thing I want to continue to instill in my children, even during these changes we are living, is that they should still fight for what they know to be right.
The rest of our time at the hospital was uneventful. The appointment was good and met my expectations. The doctor and her staff were helpful and knowledgeable. We agreed that progress was being made for my daughter’s condition and that the only thing left to do was to make another follow-up appointment. If nothing major came up, we’d be back in six months. After setting that up, we started to make our way to the car.
As we got closer to the main door, I waved goodbye to the older fellow who was still screening hospital visitors. For years, he’s been a happy constant in my travels back and forth with Ronan. I was glad that his smile had not faded while he’s taken on new duties. Offering us a good afternoon, I thanked him, not for screening us, but for being that person that I always hope to see at each appointment. “He’s nice, Mommy,” she whispered. “Oh, he’s one of my favorites!” I shared, “I love that he’s here every time we are.”
We got in the car and started on our trip back home. We talked about what’s next for her and how we can keep up with what the doctor suggested we do. We talked about seeing other kids in the clinic knowing they had many more challenges than she did. We also talked about the moms and dads and how hard some of this might be for them, especially with some restrictions and rules still in place. She thoughtfully considered everything she’d seen and then took a short nap.
Before we got back into town, I decided that I wanted to run some errands. They would add to our already long day, but I wanted to see if I could replenish some of items I couldn’t find at our local shops. Pulling into a parking spot at a small grocery store, I pointed to several people in the store and parking lot. “Look, they’re not wearing masks,” I said. “So, we’re not either?” my youngest asked. I told her, “Yep, not that it’s up them anyway, but I am not going to wear it. Other places will make you wear a mask, but this place lets you choose.” Folding the kid-size one she’d received at the hospital and putting it back down next to her, she said, “I’m not wearing one either.” I told her she could if she wanted to, I would never stop her from doing that, but she agreed. We’re not sick. We’re not a threat, so her mask, like mine, would stay in the car.
I thought it perfect timing as one of my very favorite songs came on the radio as we unbuckled our seatbelts. Excitedly, I heard from the backseat, “MOM, we are *not* getting out of the car yet. We need to turn this up and listen to the whole thing first.” Agreeing with my little mini-me, we sat in the parking lot and rocked out. Singing along, I looked at my child as she sang those lyrics and could only think, from your lips to God’s ears, my little dear. Someday, we will be victorious.
They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious!
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.