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COVID-19 Can’t Stop our Family-Focused Care

Dr. Atabaki in isolation room resized

The mother and her two school-aged boys arrived at our emergency department (ED) in April 2020. They all showed symptoms of COVID-19. They were also distraught. The boys’ father was dying from complications related to the virus at a local intensive care unit. “It was a difficult case for all of us,” says Dr. Shireen Atabaki, an ED doctor and mother of three who has worked at Children’s National Hospital for more than 20 years. “We focused our attention on caring for the whole family.”

Staff quarantined the family in a negative-pressure isolation room in the ED to keep everyone safe. “Once we had ourselves prepared with our astronaut-like helmets plus gowns and gloves, we went in and guided the mother to appropriate care,” Dr. Atabaki says. “She was sick, very sad and anxious. We felt her pain.”

Nurses provided calm reassurance and made them comfortable. Our telemedicine program enabled a social worker and child life specialist to help the family cope, using donated tablets. A virtual interpreter facilitated communication as the family did not speak English. “Thanks to our telemedicine system, we have not compromised family-focused care,” Dr. Atabaki says. The family returned home with a plan to begin their recovery. “Working at Children’s National always makes me feel like a hero. COVID-19 can’t change that.”

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