My mom is a doctor in Culpeper, a pediatrician who takes care of your kids. She’s one of the few people in the county who can take care of the sickest kids, doing things like placing a tiny tube down a baby’s throat when it can’t breathe on its own.
She’s one of the few people who can identify complex health problems and figure out what to do about them, like helping kids sick with COVID-19. Since COVID has started spreading in the community, my mom—like so many other healthcare providers—hasn’t stopped working to ensure that the community is as healthy as it can be.
Something else you should know about my mom: She’s over 60 and has asthma. That means that if she gets COVID, her chance of a severe outcome, including dying, is much higher than it is for younger people and for people without underlying conditions.
As a medical provider working directly with sick patients, her risk of being exposed to COVID is much higher than the average person’s. She knows she has higher risks, both of being exposed and then of having a severe outcome. Yet, she hasn’t decided to stop direct patient care because that’s what’s most important right now.
This makes me worried for my mom (and I’m the type of risk-taker who loves to scuba dive and has even gone skydiving). I don’t want her to be at such a risk, but I also understand that she feels it’s her responsibility to continue helping the Culpeper community as best she can, which means being on the front line.
I became more worried for my mom when she told me that recently a parent brought a child in to be seen and didn’t tell the truth about the child’s symptoms—COVID symptoms, or that the child had been potentially exposed to COVID. As a result, the medical provider who first saw the patient didn’t take the full COVID precautions, like wearing a disposable gown, gloves, eye cover and face mask and having the patient use a separate entrance. These additional steps help protect providers and non-COVID patients from potential exposure.
Now, if that provider had been my mom, and if that child had COVID, the possible outcomes for each of them are very different.
The child would almost certainly be OK. As of March 18, there were no reported cases of a U.S. child under 19 dying from COVID or even needing to be admitted to an intensive-care unit. Very few—only about 1 out of every 50—require hospitalization. A child would almost certainly be able to recover at home, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
But if my mom got COVID, she would face a far greater chance—about 1 in 3—of getting so sick that she would be hospitalized; about 1 in 10 of needing to be admitted to the ICU; and about 1 in 30 of getting so sick that she could die. Even if, luckily, she didn’t get very sick, she still would have to stop helping sick kids while she recovered.
Saving lives is easy.
Practice social distancing, so that you and your loved ones have a lower risk of getting COVID and needing medical attention.
More importantly, be honest with your healthcare providers so that they can take appropriate caution in caring for you. If you don’t, you make it more likely that those providers and the broader community will suffer.
COVID has made life difficult for everyone, and many people are scared. I believe that the parent who withheld information did so because they were scared about not being seen by a healthcare professional.
Please, please, please, trust that people like my mom will do everything they can to keep your kids healthy. Just help them take care of themselves, too.
Please don’t place healthcare providers, like my mom, at unnecessary risk.