Coronavirus Conversations

Coronavirus Conversations

May 18, 2020

It seemed like keeping a Coronavirus journal was a good idea when I first considered that we are living through history, but writing every Friday has proven to be much harder than I anticipated.  It’s actually Monday as I write this entry, and I have no qualms about the fact that living and working trumps writing and tweeting about it. It has been a little busier this last week or two.  The number of children’s who are coming into the office has increased slightly as the news media is beginning to share the importance of vaccinating our children and the value of wellness visits.  I’m really proud of the fact that my subspecialty can focus attention on all the ways we prevent disease.  We teach parents and kids about the value of sleep and good nutrition.  And we vaccinate to keep babies from dying of polio, meningitis and pneumonia.  The thought that we would begin to see outbreaks of pertussis or measles is very real if vaccination rates fall below a critical number, and the mainstream news media has been a beacon of light shining on what pediatricians do best:  keep kids healthy.

Since the last Journal Entry, the practice has been “gifted” a case of KN95 masks from an anonymous and generous donor to the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  (The is the professional organization in our state where member pediatricians advocate for children and their health needs, mostly with state and local government officials.). The governor of Virginia is a pediatrician like me, and  I have taken great solace in that fact.  There is a soft-spoken compassion that is palpable in his communication.  It’s full of important facts and with all that the data, he shares the needed perspective to understand it.  As we’re asked to “shelter in place,” for yet another week, folks understandable have become restless with restaurants and the gym still closed.  It’s good to feel like the person who is insisting you take this bitter medicine can explain why it’s making a difference and at the same time, commiserate with your unhappiness.  Pediatricians are stereotyped as the sticker-loving “softies” in medical school, but we’re the ones who can thread an IV into a microscopic scalp vein at 2am and coax your 3-year old to poop in the potty at 9am in clinic.  We are the patient communicators in medical school.  And we love a challenge.  Many surgeons and the ER cowboys take a step back when they have to hog-tie the toddler to see in her ears.  Pediatricians, we just pull out the stickers, and the confrontation is over before you know it.

April 8, 2020

Update:  We were contacted by a company with early access to COVID-19 antibody tests, and we said we were interested in knowing more. Fast forward, the company decided NOT to sell the tests to doctors until they have FDA approval, but it prompted a great deal of planning and excitement.

We emailed the practice to educate parents about these coming tests and ask if there was any interest in screening.  The ANTIBODY tests are different from the PCR testing that folks hear about in the news media which identifies the germ.  The antibody tests screen for immunity to SARS-CoV2, and the opportunity prompted a blog article about what “testing” for COVID19 really means.  Long story, short… the quickie tests aren’t quite ready for prime time yet, but when it becomes clear that widespread testing will help us determine what percentage of the population has been exposed and has recovered, we’re ready to go with educational materials and information to help parents understand the choice to get the test and what the results mean.

March 27, 2020

Update:  Another week under our belts.  It has been quieter than the two preceding weeks, and as a doctor, I’m thanking each and every one of you who have “sheltered in place.”  It’s making a difference.  There are far fewer sick children than usual in our office compared to the same time last year.  The children who need to see the pediatrician are coming in, and we’ve used our eVisit platform more than in the last three weeks than in the entire five years that we’ve had it.  In many ways, we’re creating a new way to partner with parents and technology to care for the children.

Update:  We are now seeing more and more cases of COVID19 reported in the newspaper and online in the Richmond area.  While it may seem cause for increasing your worry, it is what doctors predicted and expected, and it isn’t nearly as bad as if we’d continued our work/school/shopping lives as though viral spread didn’t matter.

Update:  Our practice can test patients if the need arises, and it won’t be too much longer before the quick tests are more widely available.  Try to remain focused on things over which we all have some control.  Good nutrition, adequate sleep, a bit of outside time to run and play are good for kids.

We’re seeing the worry that parents feel begin to change and evolve. The best advice we have for you is to Create The NEW Normal.  These are unprecedented times, and every doctor knows “it wasn’t IF we have a pandemic, but WHEN we will have a pandemic.”   If you’re stumbling upon the folks who say it’s all a hoax, I can assure you it is not.

At Partners in Pediatrics, we all feel so fortunate to be able to care for kids without a waiting room, with most of the PPE we need and with access to testing.  As a pediatrician, I do not take those blessings for granted.

Quote of the Week:
“Don’t worry if business is down right now, Doc.  In 9 months, there will be a huge Baby Boom and we can call them the Coronn-ials!”

Stay safe until next week.


March 20, 2020

Here at the doctor’s office, we are essential personnel, and it’s harder than we ever imagined to be in the thick of things.  We want you to know that we are keeping constant watch on all recommendations and the folks at the Health Department call a few times a week to coordinate care.

We have a Morning Minute each day where we share ideas, worries and the promise to always do what’s right for our patients.  Please keep us all in your thoughts and prayers.

Update:  We have a supply of N95 masks and gloves, but we’re wearing glasses and scrubs because we don’t have face masks or disposable gowns.  At first, we were ‘suiting up’ for all feverish or respiratory patients.  Now we’re masking up for everybody.

Update:  This week, the worry surfaced that … “what if one of us would unknowingly be infected and pass coronavirus or any germ for that matter, to a child?”  Giving words to a concern every doctor and nurse feels is important, and it’s bonding my team together.  If we say it aloud, we don’t have to carry it around in our heads as we do our jobs.

This week, we’ve decided to wear masks inside the 3-6 feet space that’s your social distance whether your child is sick or well.  The N95 masks are cumbersome, itchy and ugly.  And it’s a constant effort to remember that the kids can’t “see my nose wiggling like a bunny” when I need them to look at me.  I didn’t realize how often I used those words until they became useless under a mask.

A wee one asked me if I had “Bears In There Behind That Mask?  No bears.  Just a smile.