For someone who is not fond of going to the doctor, I may have set a personal record for the number of times I interfaced with medical professionals this year.

I’m OK. Nothing serious. Mostly routine stuff and then contending with aging aches.

What struck me, though, was how different it was with all the visits because of the pandemic. Most of my time was spent with Barton Health employees in South Lake Tahoe. One might suspect that under the circumstances they would be more stressed, perhaps not as friendly, or even treating patients as a number and not a person. I only have positive things to say.

The halls inside Barton Memorial Hospital are emptier during the pandemic. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

To me this is remarkable. These are people, who while they were not on the front line with COVID patients, were still working in a facility where the disease was present. They must have friends who are interacting with those patients. I don’t know if any of them were scared to go to work each day. Their professionalism was spot on even in these crazy times. This was true of the people at the front who took my temperature and asked me a litany of COVID related questions, to the people scheduling appointments, to the people administering the care and tests.

Some of what I did was preventative—colonoscopy and mammogram. All healthy in those areas. While Dan Norman and his crew are always easy going, they were not griping about all the extra garb they were wearing to ward of the deadly virus. When asked, some talked about moving rooms, the ventilation system and other COVID related protocols; all in a matter of fact way.

Twice I visited the imaging department—to get my boobs squeezed and for other X-rays. Instead of changing in a different room, the hospital gown went on in the room where the mammogram machine is located. The tech only complained about the virus as we all do; the absence of hugs, of not being able to interact with people as we had prior to March 2020.

For the shots of my lower back, I only saw the person taking the pictures. That was the most noticeable difference about Barton Memorial Hospital, the absence of people. Patients were not waiting in the normal locations, while few staff members were in the halls.

What is great about MyChart (which I’m sure other health organizations besides Barton use) is that I knew my results before going over them with the nurse practitioner. This online feature allows me to see what the docs are saying about the visits, I’m able keep track of when I should be getting regular maintenance, and can check on scheduled appointments. I’m sure I could do more with MyChart, but haven’t taken the time to delve into it.

Being able to first see the nurse practitioner via video was perfect. It meant not having to wait in a lobby wasting my time. The appointments were on time. The last one earlier this month we did by phone—all to go over the blood lab work. This year was my first time to use telemedicine; love it. I was able to describe my symptoms and get physical therapy for my sciatica.

Who I saw the most were the Barton physical therapists, with Russ being my main inflictor of pain. By the end, though, I was much improved. Looks like I’ll be doing exercises for the rest of my life in order to be as pain-free as possible.

My only outside of Barton medical experience in the summer/fall was to Carson Dermatology for my annual checkup because of having had prior basal cell cancer spots removed. Here and at Barton Hospital my temperature was taken to screen for COVID symptoms. Masks were mandatory for everyone.

I’ve heard of people being scared to get medical care during COVID. I’m glad I did what I did. What if I had passed on the care and a year from now I came down with something serious that had it been caught in 2020, would have made a significant difference in my life? That gamble wasn’t worth it to me. I trusted the health care workers were doing everything to stay healthy and in turn that would keep me from getting COVID while I was at their facilities.

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