I took Ronan's little sister to the hospital last week for two follow-up appointments. [Before I go further, know that she’s fine, has no worrisome conditions like her brother has, and is one of the healthiest in our family. That said, we sometimes go to the hospital for appointments because it’s easier to see the doctor there than at the smaller satellite clinic.] The first appointment of the day was at 9am. The second one wasn’t until 1pm. Planning on staying on the hospital grounds for lunch, we both looked forward to lunch at the cafeteria. Some people don’t like hospital food, but this group offers great meals, including ones that are made with clean ingredients. Plus, who doesn’t love a lunch out and some mommy-daughter time?
So, on Tuesday, we got ourselves to the hospital and got ready for the long day ahead. Before we arrived, I’d been tipped off that things had changed again because of COVID. A phone call the day before the appointments confirmed that things were still pretty intense there, “Mrs. Jameson, when you come to the parking garage, you’ll receive a card. On it is a phone number. After you park, call it. The person answering will let you know when you can walk into the building. Once you’re at the entrance, you’ll need to be mask up, get your temperature taken, and sanitize your hands. Then, you will be asked to go directly to the clinic. You’ll both receive a sticker to wear that shows you’ve been cleared to enter the building.”
I’m used to that sort of instruction now having taken Ronan to several doctor’s appointments there, but if I had no idea what was going on in the world? Those instructions sound like what you see in movies during some covert ops when someone breaks into a secret entrance of a classified area: Use the password we give you. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Go in quickly. Go in quietly. Do the job, and get out safely.
The young receptionist continued, “Now, before your visit, I need to ask you a few questions. Have you or your daughter have
I could toy with this young person and ask, “Which one?”
I could be super annoying, and say, “Yes,” because we’ve certainly come in contact with viruses on a daily basis.
Or I could be compliant, not make any waves, and just say No.
I opted to keep things simple while on the phone and told her we did not. No need to ruffle feathers before we even step foot into the hospital. She then rattled off the extensive list of symptoms of The Virus asking if either of us currently have any of the following symptoms or had them in the past 48 hours: Do you have a fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing? Do you have fatigue, muscle or body aches, or a headache? Have you experienced a new loss of taste or smell? Do you have a sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea? And finally, within the past 14 days, have you been in close physical contact with anyone who is known to have laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, or with anyone who has any symptoms consistent with COVID-19?
Confidently answering no to each of those prompts, the young woman said she’d confirm the appointments.
Upon arrival, we did not get a card with that phone number the receptionist said we’d need to call to gain access to the building. We got out of the car anyway and walked to the door. This door, the same one Ronan and I have been walking in and out of for years for his specialists appointments, is now a check point. Sadly, the kind fellow who is usually there was not there to happily greet us. Instead, a team of 3 people “worked the door”.
I’m not sure why they need 3 people because, for every visitor who was there before and after us, only one person performed the in-take procedure.
Are you here for an appointment?
Are you sick?
Do you have any of the following symptoms...
I’m going to take your temperature.
Now you need to sanitize your hands.
Now put this sticker on your shirt.
You may proceed to your appointment.
She was cut and dry and lacked the personalized care and greeting I had always looked forward to. Not wanting to stay a second longer than we had to, we walked in and made our way to the elevator for the first appointment. That one would be the longer of the two appointments. Then, we could enjoy lunch and relax.
With visit one done, it was time to eat. While trying to go around the check point and cross to the other hallway that leads to the main hospital, we were loudly stopped in our tracks.
“YOU CAN’T GO THROUGH THERE!” Checkpoint Lady bellowed.
“Oh! But you already screened us. Remember?” I said as I pointed to my sticker.
“I know. I remember, but you are not authorized to go through there. It’s not for patients,” she continued.
Looking at her a little confused as I’ve walked through there hundreds of times with Ronan, I started, “But the cafeteria is there. Unless I need to go through the parking garage…”
“No, you can’t go there either,” Checkpoint Lady said firmly.
“What? We already can’t bring our own food in, and we won’t allow us to sit and eat in the waiting room areas with take-out anymore. We need to grab lunch before the next appointment,” I explained.
Realizing no one had included this new restricted information in the pre-appointment call or screening, she said, “You can’t. At least not in the cafeteria. You are not allowed to enter the buildings where you don’t have a scheduled appointment.”
I was ready to argue with but we’re fine! but we’re screened! but we’ve done all the things we’ve been asked to do! but didn’t think it wise to. Instead of arguing, I said, “Well, we’ll leave and come back then. I know there are places in town that would be happy to serve us lunch.”
One of the kinder Checkpoint Ladies offered, “Or you can grab some food from the kiosk right there and eat in your car.” Pointing to it, she continued, “You are allowed to walk up to it (it’s about 10 feet into the same hallway leading to the main hospital) and get some food. They have some sandwiches and snack items.”
Clearly trying to help us, I thanked her for chiming in. Even though easily, I could’ve walked down through the parking garage, crossed the street, and entered the main hospital doors, I remembered something as she spoke. I remembered that the last time I was there with my son, they were using new imaging stations at the main hospital – I couldn’t tell what they were, but I had no desire for me or Ronan to be filmed or photographed with them as other patients were. Finding a way to walk around them, Ronan and I had no problem entering the main hospital last time. I now thought it would actually be a good idea to stay away from that area. So we skipped the nutritious meal options and bought pre-made sandwiches from the food cart stationed in the restricted adjoining hallway that we were temporarily authorized to go into. It was crazy.
But it would get better.
The doctor we were scheduled to see after lunch was as polite as she could be. When it came time to discussing treatment, she mentioned to my daughter that exercising daily would be important. “Kids need to get outside, to move around, and to also exercise.” Looking at me and then directly at my daughter, she added, “And while you are exercising, take the mask off. Don’t exercise with it on. It’s unhealthy. In fact, wearing it too long can cause problems…and who wants to breathe in their breath like that anyway?
I was so grateful that she and I agreed, not just on my daughter’s care, but on the masks. Smiling, I thanked her. No matter where I look – on storefronts, on signs at the grocery store, even on the doors of the school buses – you can’t miss the message: MASK UP. MASKS ON. MASKS ON AT ALL TIMES. MASKS OR NO ENTRY. I’ve seen more advertisements featuring people with masks on now, too. It’s over the top, but I’m glad this doctor spoke up about how ineffective they can be, “They don’t work, and I encourage the younger ones, especially the younger ones, to not wear them while exercising.”
Later in the week, we saw another medical provider. Masked up because they’d recently had COVID-19, I was glad for his recovery and for his common sense responses.
Saying that the next 4 – 6 weeks would be getting worse, as far as COVID cases would go, we talked about how things were for him last month. After sharing a little bit about the illness, how he got through it and what we could do should we encounter it, his suggestion for us was this: support your immune system. Take vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc to stay healthy.
No pushing of anything except being smart about The Virus. "It's here, so wash your hands, avoid large crowds, and work on supporting your immune system."
How refreshing! How simple! Better than that, how affordable and manageable!
I found that advice very encouraging. It’s a beautiful thing when those in the medical field want to see their patients be healthy and to remain healthy. For my children and for myself, I’m thankful we got to see two of those kinds of folks last week.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.