My two-year-old son Malachi is a medically-complex Seattle Children’s kiddo and a “frequent flyer” here at the hospital. We visit the hospital often—for clinic appointments, routine procedures, sicknesses and medical emergencies. Malachi was diagnosed with Spina Bifida before he was born. He had several lifesaving operations in his first few months with us including spine and brain surgeries on his first two days of life.
Moving to get the care we needed
Malachi, his dad, and I currently live in Auburn, Wash., however we didn’t always live in Auburn. We moved from Yakima to be closer to the care Malachi needs. After two emergency air flights in two weeks just after Malachi’s first birthday, we made the decision to relocate to Auburn.
Like most parents who have medically complex kids, we were kind of pros at social distancing even before COVID-19.
As the parent of a medically complex kiddo, the current pandemic is especially concerning. We were especially cautious early this spring as news of the impact of the virus began to spread. We went into complete isolation—no one in or out of our home—on March 12. Like many parents in our situation, my husband and I were intent on doing everything possible to avoid a hospital admission. We both began working from home. We cancelled all clinic appointments and, instead, opted for telemedicine appointments with my son’s providers. Telemedicine has been so incredibly helpful for us but some things demand in-person care.
A very scary month
Unfortunately, April proved a difficult month for my son, and we experienced three medical emergencies: two of which resulted in a paramedic response to our home and an ambulance ride to the Seattle Children’s Emergency Department. That first trip was devastating for me. We had tried so hard to avoid the hospital. We were so afraid of the possible risk of exposure that our minds associated with the hospital environment. And, yet, despite our precautions, we ended up in the ED.
Disabilities don’t stop being disabilities and medical conditions don’t magically go away just because there is a pandemic raging around you. When an emergency happens, there is no other option but to seek care. I am so, so happy Seattle Children’s is doing everything they can to keep kids and their families as safe as absolutely possible.
Arriving at the hospital during the pandemic
When we first arrived at the hospital, my husband and I were met outside the ED by a triage nurse. We were asked to remain in our vehicle as we answered a few questions about why we were seeking care and what symptoms my son was displaying. When it was determined that none of us had symptoms commonly associated with the virus, we were allowed to exit the vehicle and prepare my son to enter the waiting room. We were told that we would be escorted directly through the waiting room and into an exam room, but that only one of us could accompany him as the hospital had instituted a one-parent rule. My son was tested for COVID not long after arriving. All communications with non-medical staff were done by phone into the room. Once inside, we were met by several admission specialists, our nurse and a resident doctor, all in PPE resembling space suits. They wore gowns, gloves and helmets that covered and sealed their full face and head. It didn’t take long before we were admitted to the trach/vent floor—our “home away from home” here at the hospital. We know the whole team now and are so amazed with them. Dr. Brian Cartin was so personal and he really has a great bedside-manner.
The one-parent rule was in place during each of our three admissions in April. It was only lifted on May 8th, at the tail end of our third admission. Parents staying at the hospital were screened each morning to ensure that they were not displaying any symptoms of COVID and their temperatures were taken. Parents not screened in-patient were screened at the entrance to the hospital just before entering the building. Hand sanitizer and masks were available at the door for those without cloth masks when the one-parent rule was lifted.
Around the hospital, most facilities were closed or use was limited. All three Starbucks were closed, which I completely understand, but was still tough because I really rely on Starbucks at those times. I was so impressed that nurses were helping fill the gaps by picking up Uber Eats or even just getting us coffee. The staff dropping off food and formula to the patients also were not permitted to enter the room, but they catered to our needs in ways that were both compassionate and extremely safe.
Get care to avoid an emergency
Although home is certainly the safest place to be in a pandemic, I have been impressed with what I have experienced as the hospital’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Are we, as parents of an at-risk child, still concerned about potential exposure? Of course, without a doubt. But, when my son needed medical intervention, we didn’t hesitate to seek care. It’s absolutely normal and expected to be anxious. Though, I’m happy to say that it really wasn’t as scary as I expected. If I could tell parents one thing regarding getting care for their kids, it would be that you don’t want something unchecked to turn into an emergency. I was confident that Children’s would do everything possible to protect my child.
Seattle Children’s is providing a range of options for families who need care including expanded telehealth. We are committed to keeping our patients, families and workforce safe from exposure to COVID-19. Learn more about our existing robust infection prevention strategies and additional safety measures.