By Alex Sanchez

Worry No More

UNM Hospital Procedures Ensure Visitor & Patient Safety During COVID-19 Pandemic

When the call came, I thought for sure they were going to cancel.

"Is this the parent of Legan?"

"Yes, that's me," I responded.

"Great. We are just calling to confirm his one-year checkup at University of New Mexico Hospital."

Just like that, my stomach flopped. "In person?" I asked. Yes, in person, at the hospital. The same hospital that has been caring for some of the sickest New Mexicans battling COVID-19.

I know how important my son's check-up is. At 1, he is set to receive his next round of vaccines, including measles, mumps, hepatitis A and more. It's also an important milestone to check his growth, discuss transitioning him more to solid food and cow's milk, and discuss his developmental growth.

I also know the hospital is safe. After all, I work at The University of New Mexico Health Sciences and have seen first-hand how much the hospital - like hospitals all over the country - is doing everything possible to keep employees, patients and the community safe.

Of course, on the phone with the pediatric scheduler, none of that was going through my mind. In that moment I was just a mom, worried about bringing the most important and precious thing I have into the hospital (after weeks of being home, only venturing out for essentials and washing my hands more than I had over my entire life).

Common sense quickly prevailed, and I confirmed the appointment. A few days later, as I pulled in the parking garage - normally a jam-packed structure - I easily found a space in the first row. I put on the cloth mask I made a few weeks ago and loaded the baby in his stroller. We followed the clearly marked path to the designated entrance doors, passing along the way a tent set up near the entrance and the designated area where potential COVID patients are being screened and tested.

Alex _ Legan

Just inside the first sliding glass door of the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion, I was stopped by a navigator, who scanned my temperature using a thermal temperature gun. Then she pointed it at Legan and took his temperature. Ever oblivious to what was going on, my little boy, who had fallen asleep on the car ride, continued to snooze away in his stroller, unbothered and untouched.

She asked if either of us had experienced any fever, shortness of breath or coughing. A quick no led us to the next station, where they asked about our appointment and confirmed in the system that we did have reason to be at the hospital. As an employee, I already knew that the hospital had taken the necessary steps to reduce traffic in the buildings and only one parent was allowed with a pediatric patient. After our appointment was confirmed, I received a sticker to wear indicating I had been checked in and where I was heading in the hospital.

We made quick work of the short walk to the main side of the hospital and up to the third floor - Pediatrics. It's an area I have visited multiple times, but I had never seen it so empty. Some of the benches were cordoned off, and even though everyone was wearing masks, I was still greeted by the kind and helpful check-in staff.

And just like that I relaxed. Legan's appointment went as it always has, his little head measured, his weight taken, his height recorded. The doctor and I chatted about my questions, reviewed the milestones he will be hitting soon and went over the vaccinations he would receive.

For a bit I forgot about COVID. As we loaded into the stroller and headed back to the car I made sure to thank those at the exit, busy taking more visitors' temperatures and checking in patients.

I noticed that some of the incoming patients and visitors had the same look of apprehension I probably had when I entered. I just tried to smile (although I knew they wouldn't see it through my homemade mask). I know that over the next few days, weeks and months, our lives will return to a new normal, and that includes rescheduling doctor's appointments and heading back into clinics.

I hope my story reassures you and prepares you for what to expect. While this is a new norm, the doctors, providers and employees are the same caring practitioners and staff they have always been, and these appointments, your health or your child's health, matter. Don't be scared to come in to the clinics, they are taking all the right steps to keep you safe.

Sound Asleep

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