Inside Cook Children's: What Doctors Want You To Know About What We're Seeing Right Now
Dr. Diane's message to parents as record numbers of patients are being seen in the emergency department and urgent care centers.
I am a doctor.
As a doctor, I enjoy talking with my doctor friends.
I text with other doctors, am in Facebook groups with other doctors, and enjoy sharing a nice meal or drink with them pretty often.
I am a lucky doctor. I have many doctor friends in our Cook Children’s network here in Fort Worth.
I won’t talk much here about the Facebook physician group posts begging for help in our state and others.
“Are there any travel docs willing to come to Florida?” “We need nursing staff so badly, I don’t know how to support this many patients without the staffing.” And let’s not even start with the poor physician who posted asking for any ICU bed in a five-state area for a patient with an urgent abdominal surgical problem (he finally found one…but this is what we are being reduced to – social media comments to find a bed). Let’s look more locally.
It’s important to me that you understand what’s happening in our network and what doctors are seeing.
You deserve to know what’s happening in a children’s hospital near you. So I picked up my phone yesterday.
“We saw the largest number of patients in the ER since H1N1 on Monday...587. That is 24 straight hours of a patient arriving every 2.5 minutes. We tested 265 children for Covid on Monday. The vast majority of this increase in volume from usual is back-to-school associated illnesses, of which Covid is a huge part right now. This is mainly a severe illness in the unvaccinated.”
It's true we're also tight on hospital beds too. Capacity has been stretched thin the past few weeks with RSV, COVID-19 as well as other illnesses and injuries. Right now, there are 26 COVID-19 patients in the hospital. Eight of those are in the ICU. RSV also continues to be prevalent. Last week alone, the hospital saw 117 children with positive cases of the respiratory illness.
They have been inundated with patients.
“The UCCs have seen more patients each day this week than we did in almost an entire week during the pandemic last summer. This is indicative of the impact that the delta variant of SARS-CoV2 is having on our children. We are doing our very best in the UCCs to fulfill the promise of Cook Children’s to every patient that enters our doors, but there are more patients than we can handle and our staff is exhausted.”
I think it’s important for parents to know that delta seems to be affecting children more rapidly, more frequently, and possibly more severely than past strains.
“We are in desperate need of help from the public. Please wear your mask and have your children over 2 years of age wear theirs everywhere in public. Encourage your children’s school districts to require masking at school to not only prevent the spread of COVID but also RSV, common colds and eventually, the flu.
All of these illnesses mimic COVID and will require testing and potential quarantine but all of these illnesses can be prevented with masking and good hand washing. Lastly, please get a vaccine for yourself and your eligible children! Vaccines are safe and they work to keep kids and adults out of the hospital.”
I think Dr. Starnes' words are important to let sink in. We can make a difference and not overwhelm our hospitals.
If your child is exposed to COVID, but is feeling fine – there is no need to panic. I wouldn’t run to the urgent care or ER - I’d look into setting up an appointment with your pediatrician, either in-person or virtually, and scheduling a test 3-5 days after the exposure. You can also consider at-home testing.
If your > 3-month-old child is COVID positive and is drinking well, urinating every 6-8 hours, breathing normally, has had fevers for less than 5 days, is coherent and alert, and otherwise seems to be feeling alright – it’s okay to watch them closely and call your pediatrician if you notice any changes.
Masking your child protects others – absolutely. But it also protects your child. I highly recommend sending your kiddos to school in a mask. And think about other small changes:
- Move that birthday party from indoor to outdoor.
- Consider postponing the family gathering until the numbers start going down again.
- Open windows more.
- Move that playdate to a park.
- Be flexible in your plans.
I know it’s hard, but medical professionals are exhausted, and one death of a child is one too many.
Like Dr. Starnes says, “We are all in this together and we will not get out of this pandemic without working as a collective group. Think of this as the biggest, most important group project that you have ever been in, and be the group member that everyone wants to be with!”
I went to the ER yesterday to take some photographs. I couldn’t find a single chair available in the waiting room, at 1pm on a Wednesday in August – typically a time that is very quiet. I felt completely in the way – people were rushing all around me. I walked out heavy-hearted. Not because I didn’t get the photos I wanted – but because this was all preventable. Let’s do better, Fort Worth. We’re in this together.
"I didn’t realize how important the job of the pediatrician was until I had kids of my own. My education, experience in medicine, and cocky attitude made me feel like I knew it all before my first one came around. He proceeded to make me very aware of how little I actually knew.
Thankfully he survived, as did the next one, and they’ve helped me to grow and to help YOU, the parent, in so many ways. Sure I’m here to make sure your kids are healthy and happy at all ages. But I’m also here to make sure you’re educated, to make sure your family is thriving, and to make you feel confident in caring for your kids. From diaper rashes to sleep problems to school difficulties - I’m here to help.
I write a lot about common problems and ailments online – you can find me busy on Facebook and Instagram, and I write articles for the Cook Children’s Checkup Newsroom blog. A lot of stuff you’ll hear me say in the office will be typed out on there, too. And we’re in a day and age where the internet helps make connections – you can connect with me on there, or e-mail me anytime.
It takes a village to raise a child – and I’m so grateful to be a part of yours. And as Master Yoda teaches us – “Always pass on what you have learned.” I fully plan to!"