I AM PALMER
I am Palmer is a series of articles written by parishioners at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church about their experiences in the time of COVID-19. With a close proximity to the Texas Medical Center and Rice University, the Palmer community has a unique insight into the halls of hospitals and laboratories. In this series, we will hear from a research pharmacy technician, an epidemiologist, an elder care professional, an ER doctor, and doctor parents, all serving in different ways on the front lines of this virus.
We are a two physician household with three young children, two dogs, and a cat in the mix. Add in a global pandemic, and you are sure to ramp up the level of chaos and stress. In late February, we watched with growing dismay the news from Italy and Spain. Trips were cancelled and international presentations were deferred. When the number of infected people started to explode in New York, we knew that we had to be prepared to take action locally. If Houston was going to be next, our family could be at risk.
We were fortunate to have Grandma (Jason's mom) available to come in from Florida when the city shut down began. But we knew we had to have aggressive precautions to keep her safe from exposure. We had no idea what the COVID19 incidence was going to be in Harris County or specifically in our hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center. If we had a high risk of exposure, we could bring that home to our family. We had several friends in New York become infected, despite taking appropriate precautions.
It was a difficult decision, but with so many unknowns as the situation was developing, we decided to create a version of quarantine in our home. The two of us moved into separate bedrooms, and the children begrudgingly agreed to share a room (don't get us started about that!). The adults were all separated at the dinner table, to improve our chance to protect Grandma and each other. We wore masks in the home and didn't touch any shared food or common surfaces. Our policy was to wipe down anything that we might have exposed. Any time that we came back from time in the hospital, we removed our scrubs and shoes at the door. Neckties and other 'no wash' items were left in the closet. Frankly, this is likely to become a permanent Westin policy.
Months passed and our family really got into a groove. Our family is very touchy feely, however, the kids got used to 'air hugs' and virtual high fives. Kathryn, our five year old, loved the opportunity to use tongs to serve us our meals. Virtual medicine has now become commonplace, with our patients enjoying the view of our dining room while receiving clearance for chemotherapy and clinical trials. The Westin pets benefited from our lack of travel and more time working from home - twice daily walks and more frequent treats have become the norm. We are hopeful that this new normal with more time at home will continue beyond the pandemic. It would seem that although COVID19 has been a horrendous tragedy, there will be some silver linings for our household moving forward.