By Ken Garfield
COVID-19 has not broken the connection between Memory & Movement Charlotte and our patients and their loved ones. While our doctors, nurses and support staff cannot take your hand as we shelter in place, the care we offer still comes from the heart. It also comes by telephone, video and a weekly Virtual Happy Hour that reminds us there is strength in numbers. We love what a patient said when Dr. Chuck Edwards conducted one of his first televisits. When she saw his face, she burst into tears and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, you’re here in my house!”
Calls are answered during business hours (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday) by Live Answer Coordinator Aubrie Ford. Rather than a recording, it’s Aubrie’s understanding voice on the other end. During the shutdown, she’s been fielding 500 calls a week. Some callers want informal advice on how to spend their time sheltering in place. Aubrie recommends going outside for fresh air, listening to music, working crosswords and reading. One day, the daughter of a patient called in need of immediate help. Within five minutes, Aubrie got one of our doctors to return their call. The daughter then called back to thank Aubrie for the quick response. Another day, a woman was stunned when she called (704) 577-3186. “She said ‘I’m so grateful to interact with a human being,’” Aubrie recalls.
Dr. Sanjay Iyer has been “seeing” six to eight patients a day. Typically, each examination takes 45 minutes to an hour, about the same as an office visit. The initial televisit for new patients typically runs longer. A wonderful part of these televisits is that a caregiver or family member can participate. Dr. Iyer’s patients are dealing with movement disorders, his area of expertise, so it’s helpful for someone to be there to position the camera so Dr. Iyer can watch them walk.
Family members joining in from a distance has been a blessing for all involved. During his virtual exam with Renu Mirchandani, Dr. Iyer was joined by her daughter, Harsha, from her home in Greensboro. Mrs. Mirchandani, who lives in Gastonia, is dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. “It was a really meaningful interaction,” Dr. Iyer says. “This way, her daughter and I see her at the same time.” It was equally meaningful for the daughter. “I watched my mom walk just as Dr. Iyer did,” Harsha says. “I got to quote unquote be there for her visit.”
Modern medicine during a pandemic, uniting a doctor in Charlotte, a patient in Gastonia and a caregiver in Greensboro!
We are bringing our community of patients, families and caregivers together virtually. Thursdays at 5 p.m., you can link in to our Happy Hour by Zoom. Just go to www.mmclt.org. Each week, our doctors and staff will answer questions, share updates and even inviting participants to share a talent, perhaps a musical performance or something they’ve written. The first Happy Hour welcomed 26 participants. Drs. Iyer and Melissa Shepard and Physician Assistant Robyn Wolkofsky spoke of the need to acknowledge that pit-in-the stomach feeling, and to do what we can to resist social isolation. Keep in touch with friends and loved ones. Perform that rare act of writing letters. Dr. Iyer chose a seaside backdrop for his Zoom presence, adding to the upbeat spirit of the hour. A highlight: Dr. Iyers’ parents joined us from India. Remember, no medical advice will be shared on Zoom.
We understand that the technology may be tricky for some, whether joining Zoom or executing a televisit. Not to worry, Certified Nursing Assistant Mombo Neufville (a talented techie) and the rest of our staff is making sure everyone makes the connection.
Dr. Shepard has been conducting nearly a half-dozen televisits a day, devoting as much time to each patient as she would in the office. She apologizes in advance if anyone hears their infant daughter Cora crying in the background! Nothing can be as effective as a face-to-face exam, but virtual visits allow her to see how the patient looks, and check for signs of depression or isolation. Some patients have blood pressure cuffs, which is helpful for checking that vital sign. Keep an eye on our website. Dr. Shepard, a psychiatrist, will be sharing her insights online on coping with social distancing. Among her recommendations: Exercise. And avoid watching too much coronavirus news on TV.
A televisit can offer unexpected benefits, for who doesn’t need a laugh during the pandemic? During one televisit, Dr. Shepard could hear snorting in the background. Turns out it was Gucci, the patient’s pet pig. “She showed me the pig at the end of the interview,” Dr. Shepard says. “It was an indoor pig. Big and fat. Pretty cute for a pig.”
- Please visit us at www.mmclt.org or call (704) 577-3186. Do not hesitate to reach out with your questions and concerns.
- Your support of Memory & Movement Charlotte is deeply appreciated. As a nonprofit, to cover the cost of one patient, we must raise $1,350 a year above what insurance pays for office visits. The shutdown has deepened the need for your generosity. You can make a gift at www.mmclt.org/donate.