Yesterday, I took our 9 year old son to the doctor. He had a fever and a rash that had persisted for three days and when my husband and I called Monday morning, there was no hesitation from the voice on the other end.
“Can you make a 9:30 appointment?”
No questions about symptoms or our home treatments. No questions about temperatures or exposures or analgesics. An instant appointment. When was the last time that happened? Less than an hour to get food (and coffee) into our systems, dress for the outside world and make our way to the office. Not nearly enough time for me to wrap my head around what was really happening. Not even a moment for Aaron and I to silently communicate the thousands of parental fears that immediately came to our respective minds.
“Yes, we’ll be there. Thank you.”
Arriving at the office, I adjust my mask, and then my son’s. I take a deep breath through the thin fabric and immediately feel claustrophobic. This is only my second time out since the Mandatory Mask Directive and I panic. My ancient 8th grade science knowledge pops, uninvited, into my head, and I remember random facts about carbon dioxide and oxygen and what I am exhaling and inhaling. I look at a tree and wonder if I am going to pass out. Desperately, I pull the mask down, taking a few deep breaths, relishing the unobstructed air. And then I see my son’s eyes take in the change. This is one of those parenting moments…he is watching and my fears were going to have to crawl back to the shadows for the time being.
Getting inside is the first of many apocalypse moments. Sign says to call when we arrive. Are we wearing masks? Yes. Door mysteriously unlocks. Nurse in full gear aims thermometer at our heads and then silently escorts us inside. Another nurse, also masked and gowned and entirely unidentifiable, comes in and takes information. Our beloved pediatrician arrives, protected with mask, gown, plastic shield…we know her eyes and her Mickey Mouse stethoscope. No jokes, no laughs. Just the exam. In the end? Referral to state hospital for covid test.
We leave, removing our masks as we make our way quietly to the car. He is quiet, focused only on the green apple lollipop. I am quiet, focused only on the papers in my hand. In the car, I sit, momentarily sifting through all of the information in my head. I plug the address into Google Maps and start driving.
The hospital center is scary to me; I can’t imagine what it looks like to my son. Everyone is masked. Hospital staff are masked and gowned with gloves and shields. An ambulance leaves and another arrives. We aren’t allowed to touch anything. Temperatures are taken at several checkpoints and there are no other patients on the pediatric floor. It is eerily silent and incredibly strained. Again, we are transferred from one person to another with few words. The doctor arrives, kind eyes, but a perfect stranger. No Mickey Mouse stethoscope. Exam. Painful test for me to watch and my son to take. No way to prepare and it is over before the discomfort registers, leaving my son reacting as we are being shuffled out, more papers in hand.
Outside, he crumples a bit, asking when it will stop hurting. I don’t have a good answer. Driving home, I wonder about the future. Once again, we just have to wait.
In a world of uncertainty, I feel like it is critical to add this footnote: 24 hours later we received the call from our county health department…test negative.