Tips for Doctors Visits During COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on April 20, 2020 # COVID-19, Health

When it comes to living with a disability, doctor’s appointments are part of life. Unfortunately, we are now living in the era of coronavirus, and leaving the house to go to appointments can be dangerous. If you’re a quadriplegic like myself, certain doctor’s appointments are medically necessary, such as having a baclofen pump refill. There is no delaying or canceling a baclofen pump refill. If I don’t refill my pump, I will suffer withdrawal and could potentially die. I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t worried about going to a hospital during the pandemic; I was. At the same time, I knew that if I took precautions, I would be fine.

I called the week before my appointment to make sure the doctor’s office was still conducting pump refills. Before my appointment, I made a checklist of all the precautions that I needed to do before, during, and after the appointment.

Prior to leaving the house, I had someone help me put on a mask. I didn’t want to risk not being able to put it on myself, once I got to the hospital. I wore my mask the whole time driving to the hospital. When arriving to most hospitals there will be a check-in area to enter. Once in this area, the hospital staff asked where my appointment was and took my temperature. I had no fever, so I was given an armband and told to try not to touch anything.

At my doctor’s office door, I used my elbow to push the automatic door opener. When the door opened, the office was like a ghost town; I was the only one in the waiting room. I immediately did my best to sanitize both my elbow and hands again. The nurse at the reception desk told me not to bother signing in, so I didn’t have to pick up a pen other people might have used. Within a minute another nurse took me back to the room to get my refill. Both nurses were wearing masks which made me feel better. As with any doctor’s appointment, the nurse took my temperature and checked my blood pressure and pulse, although this time she was wearing gloves. After checking my vitals, the nurse left; I waited about five minutes for my nurse practitioner to come in to refill my pump. She also had a mask and gloves on too and proceeded as usual with prepping me for my refill.

During this time, I asked her questions about dealing with a disability during coronavirus. I asked if they offered coronavirus testing at the facility. I was relieved to hear I can actually get tested and have the results in 45 minutes. She went on to tell me that if I have any coronavirus symptoms at any point or think that I might have come in contact with someone who has coronavirus that I should call her ASAP. She told me she would have me come in for a test. If I tested positive, she would immediately talk to the doctors to see if they would admit me to the hospital because, as a quadriplegic, I have limited lung capacity. Some people might think hearing this would be a little scary, but I felt better knowing they would act immediately if I tested positive.Doctor Appointment

I also asked the nurse if they would be conducting antibody testing soon. She did not know but thought they would if the FDA approves it soon. I told her that I would like to get that test as soon as possible if they start testing. She thought that would be a smart move. I feel like it’s on me to take the responsibility for an appointment. I was going to email her periodically to find out where the antibody test was when approved.

If you do need to go to a doctor’s office or medical facility, we encourage you to take the following precautions to protect yourself:

  • Wear a mask or facial cover
  • Wear gloves
  • Be very aware of what surfaces you touch
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Have others open doors or use your elbow to press the automatic wheelchair door openers
  • Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer
  • Maintain a six-foot distance from others in the waiting room, hallways, etc.
  • Wash everything you’re wearing and scrub down your wheelchair when you return home
  • If you take daily medications, remember to ask your doctor to prescribe a 90-day supply of each.

I made my follow-up appointment at the front desk. I asked the nurse to open the door so that I didn’t have to use my elbow again to push the door button. I immediately sanitized my hands again once I left the office. From there I went out the same way I came in, through the checkpoint. They took my temperature again, which I appreciated, and cut off my arm band. I saw Clorox wipes on the table so I asked the attendant if she would please wipe my armrest along with my entire wheelchair joystick. As soon as I got home, I changed my shirt. I sprayed Lysol disinfectant on my shorts and all over my chair just to be safe.

Even though my appointment went smoothly, I still believe if you have an appointment that is not mandatory, you should not be going to the hospital right now. If you must go, take precautions and you should be fine. Please be safe, we will get through this and back to our lives soon.

For more resources on the coronavirus, visit the Reeve Foundation COVID-19 Information Center.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.