Medical Minute: May 2020

Our challenge as pediatric health professionals, Reach Out and Read supporters and parents, is how to continue caring for one another in ways we have never imagined!  Who knew that doctors and nurses could see lots of children and families for health visits using the magic of social media?  Who knew that there were so many different ways to have a virtual meeting, coffee/cocktail hour or birthday party?  Is the virtual what we hoped for?  Probably not!  However the alternative would be to see many, many more people become ill with this new virus – COVID-19. 

The common questions that I’m getting:

1.) Why is THIS virus so much more worrisome?
People can have the virus in their body, and not have symptoms, but, they can pass the virus to people who are within 6-9 feet of them! 

2.) Why do we wear a cloth mask when we can’t stay 6-9 feet away from folks who don’t live in our household?   
Your mask and your child’s mask protect others from YOU!   The mask on your friend or others in the store, or on the streets protects you from THEM.  This is another way to decrease the number of people who get sick.

3.) Why can’t we go see the grandparents who are 70 years old?  Because older people are at higher risk of getting severe illness, and you or your child could be infected, but not yet have symptoms!   If you must visit, wear your mask!

4.) How risky is COVID-19 for my child – why were schools closed?   Children can get this infection.  The good news is that it appears to be VERY rare for a child to become critically ill or die.  The bad news is that children can be infected (have the germ in their body) and have no symptoms, or very, very mild symptoms, and pass the illness to others – that’s why governors/mayors very wisely closed schools.

Summer is coming.  We don’t know yet when libraries will open back up!  However, this might be the rare time we recommend looking at e-book possibilities for children, which are available on-line to download for free from your local library.  The data remind us that e-books are best when read together with an older sibling or adult who can scaffold (or connect) the information in the book with information in real life. So, continue physical distancing, wear masks when places are crowded, follow advice ONLY of trusted sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, your local health department, and the CDC. There is a lot of information circulating on social media that is not true, in some instances unsafe, and could put you and those you love at risk. Be safe, keep your distance, wash your hands, don’t touch your face.

A fantastic article “The Anxious Child” by Kate Julian in The Atlantic, reminds us that shielding kids from scary things can actually eventually cause them to be more fearful and more anxious.  It’s OK to talk to our kids about COVID-19, explain in simple terms what it is, and then model what we can do to prevent it. 
Sallie Page-Goertz, MN, APRN, CPNP, IBCLC & ROR-KC Medical Director

Volunteer Appreciation: Sally Clark

“When a child comes through the door of the clinic and dashes over to see “the book lady” to get a new book, it is a thrilling feeling. When a patient is offered a book, and they announce they “don’t read” but can’t resist the perfect book when we find it, it feels fantastic.”

These are the words of Sally Clark, an 18-year volunteer with ROR-KC who started on February 1st, 2002. For Sally, ROR-KC isn’t just a “volunteer job”, it’s her true passion.

“It’s like Christmas every day with each child getting the gift of a book. Some of the patients I have seen for as many as 18 years, and I have learned to love and admire the patients and their families through the years.” said Sally.

Her connection with her patients and families can only be described as a unique and rare gem, similarly to each book she joyfully hands out to her patients and families. Sally averages about 50 hours a month volunteering by going in to Children’s Mercy Neonatal Follow-Up Clinics several days of the week for hours at a time.

“I love my time spent at Children’s Mercy Hospital. Giving out books is such fun. Reading to kids is a joy. Meeting and visiting with the people is a real privilege and my time spent in my volunteer “job” is a wonderful part of my life.” said Sally with a smile.

To view a Volunteer Highlight video of Sally’s work, click here.

Thank you for 18 years of volunteer service, Sally! We appreciate your years of enthusiasm and genuine dedication to assisting our mission.

Volunteer Appreciation Week

In honor of National Volunteer Appreciation Week, we want to take a moment and thank our OUTSTANDING volunteers. Your time and talents make a world of difference at Reach Out and Read KC. 

We also want you to know you are genuinely missed. We continue to wish safety and good health over each of you and your loved ones and look forward to the day when we will see your smiling faces again. 😊

YOU are the heart of Reach Out and Read KC, and we are SO thankful for you! Happy Volunteer Appreciation Week!

ROR-KC Virtual Storytime

We miss you! To support social distancing, join us for ROR-KC Virtual Storytime episodes that you can enjoy from your home featuring ROR-KC staff, volunteers and special guests! View the storytimes on all of our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) every Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

Use the hashtag #ReadTogetherKC to share your own virtual storytimes and at-home reading pictures with us. We want to see you reading!

Medical Minute

We have seen dramatic changes in how we operate since COVID-19 came to Kansas City. At The University of Kansas Health System (TUKHS) and most other pediatric outpatient centers/offices, well-child visits for children who do not need vaccinations to keep them safe have been cancelled for now. At TUKHS, we have cancelled in-person visits for lots of follow-up concerns for adults as well as children. We have started doing Zoom visits -Telehealth- with families as a strategy to stay in touch and take care of urgent needs that don’t require a detailed physical exam-such as checking in with kids who’ have asthma, chronic abdominal pain, and ADHD medication checks.Our psychologists and licensed clinical social workers are “seeing” kids and families with virtual visits using Zoom or Doximity which are HIPPA compliant.

Why are visits and elective surgeries being cancelled? Why are stringent visiting policies in place?
To protect our patients and our health care providers from community spread of COVID-19.
To save protective equipment (masks, gloves, and gowns) to be available to protect our health professionals.
Clinics, hospitals, and doctors offices across our communities are doing everything they can to prepare for a possible surge in ill patients. The big unknown is what will this surge look like – will it be overwhelming, as we’re hearing in reports from Italy, New York City and New Orleans, or will it be more manageable as seen in South Korea. The key to a manageable surge is the public’s willingness to practice social (physical) distancing. Each of you reading this can help prevent a health care disaster for this community! If youth continue to congregate for “corona parties” and families congregate in public parks without the distancing, the surge may become unmanageable for the health care system.

What can you do to protect yourself and your children?
Exactly what the CDC (Center for Disease Control) advises:
Keep your social (physical) distance from others. This means NO play dates; this means playing in the park while keeping distance from other people and NOT using the playground equipment; and this means avoiding visits to grandparents over age 65 who are at higher risk of getting sick
Wash your hands; Soap actually works very, very, very well to kill the pesky virus! Sanitizer is NOT necessary.
Cover your cough/sneeze with a tissue and discard the tissue, then wash your hands again!
Keep your distance, wash your hands, and stay well!

Volunteer Appreciation Month

April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month! Please join ROR-KC for a virtual celebration via Zoom on Thursday, April 23rd at 2:00 p.m during Volunteer Appreciation Week. Hear from Reach Out and Read CEO Brian Gallagher as he expresses his appreciation of your selfless commitment and effort to our program.

We are amid an unprecedented public health crisis, yet we also have an extraordinary opportunity to come together virtually during this time to celebrate YOU! Our volunteers are the backbone of our organization.

Please click here to register for this virtual event!

ROR-KC COVID-19 Update and Resources

This is a trying time for our communities, our nation, and the world. We believe that the Reach Out and Read mission of family engagement and reading daily is as powerful and important as ever during these challenging times.  

As a healthcare-based program, we have the utmost respect and support for our medical providers who are working tirelessly to care for patients affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Our clinics and providers remain committed to supporting families with young children, continuing to provide books and encourage reading aloud at every checkup. Most ROR-KC partner clinics are continuing to see children 15 months or younger and 5-year-old children so they can continue to receive vaccinations.

We are pleased to share our curated list of resources for parents and families, which is now available on our website. The increased time that children and families will spend together over the next few weeks is a terrific opportunity to maximize the effect that attention and nurturing from a loving parent or caregiver has on healthy brain development.  

ROR-KC’s work remains critical during this time. Children and adults alike feel anxious and stressed. One of the best ways to support and engage children is to read books together. Reading together promotes bonding and builds strong emotional connections. When children are cuddled in the lap of a loving caregiver, enjoying a book together, they feel safe and secure, despite the turmoil in the outside world. Reading together also builds routines that can help children manage during this uneasy time. Sharing books regularly can provide a sense of routine that can help children manage during this uneasy time of school closures.

Check out this article by National Reach Out and Read Medical Director Perri Klass “Getting Through, Making Memories and Being the Grown-Ups”. It’s a great reminder that YOU are what your child needs. 

Reach Out and Read provides a simple reminder that spending time together with books can offer a safe harbor, even if just for a few moments.  

Be well! 

Race to Read 5K Cancellation

The health and safety of our community and event participants is our number one priority. Accordingly, The 4th Annual Race to Read 5K on April 25th has been cancelled due to current mandates around events and social gatherings in relation to COVID-19.

If you would still like to support this event as a virtual runner, please click here and mark yourself as a virtual runner. Your support touches our mission to support children and families through books, literacy advice, and story time.

We want to extend a special thank you to our Race to Read 5K sponsors  who are continuing to make extraordinary contributions towards children’s literacy: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, Lucas Commercial Flooring, The University of Kansas Health System Pediatric Department, Sallie Page-Goertz and Kenneth Goertz,Tanya Rodecker-Wendt and Samuel Wendt and Pat and Gail Sullivan.