When I first saw our brand new clinic space in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans, it was late January, 2020. There were no walls up yet, just beautiful, open space, gorgeous windows with lots of natural light, and tons of potential. I felt so excited! It was the right space for Hands on Health to grow and flourish in the coming years. As the weeks went by, Christina and I anxiously awaited the finished product, checking in frequently to see the internal structure coming into form.
The walls went up, defining the space, and we were surprised with a nice upgrade to a larger suite with more square footage. Things were looking great. We planned our opening date for March 1. Moved in furniture, storage, treatment tables, clinic supplies. Art was on the way. The plush chairs I wanted were suddenly on backorder, due to shipping delays from the outbreak in China. That was mid-February. We were open for patients by the first week of March.
And then...two weeks later...we chose to temporarily close the clinic doors.
As an outpatient physical therapist and business owner, the risk of increasing infection in our community outweighed the benefits of staying open. Safety first. I knew there was a better alternative to providing the care our patients needed for the time being.
During the summer of 2019, I had several patients leave town for extended vacations (a common occurrence to escape the sweltering heat of South Louisiana). We used telehealth to stay in touch, using "virtual visits" to check in, reporting their successes and challenges, and continuing to work towards reaching their goals for a healthier life. It worked. Patients felt they were still on track to achieve their long-term goals when they returned from their trips.
Fast forward to mid-March 2020. The Covid19 pandemic started hitting New Orleans hard, so we had to transform our patient care. And we had to do it fast.
Luckily, we had created a comprehensive webinar series on the Core and Pelvic Floor in October of 2019, so we were familiar with Zoom and other online services that streamline the digital world of telehealth. Christina and I were still able to use our expert PT skills to provide superior care to our patients, all from the safety and convenience of our homes.
My gratitude for the ability to be of service and help others has kept me going, through all of these hard transitional moments.
We also expanded our online class offerings to cater to our senior citizens, many of whom were in self-isolation without family support. In addition, we created an online exercise group on FaceBook for our younger patients with an entire video library of guided exercises. Helping our community feel connected and stay healthy and fit during quarantine.
Masks, gloves, physical distancing, fear, paranoia, wondering what our future will look like. It has been a really difficult time in our world. Through all of it, hope springs eternal. Optimism wins the day.
I know when I show up for a patient visit online, that I am showing up for them. For all of us. To intentionally say "we can work through this together". To not get too discouraged. To keep some sense of normal routine. And most importantly, to stay connected.
We can't wait to see our patients in person again, in the beautiful new clinic space that awaits our return; but in the meantime, we're surfing this wave and learning to enjoy the ride.