Learning from 2020: Children's Hospital reflects on how COVID-19 changed health care

Health care professionals share what they are grateful for at the end of a long year
Learning from 2020: Children's Hospital reflects on how COVID-19 changed health care
Posted at 9:17 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 23:22:45-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Even as 2020 comes to a close, the impact of COVID-19 on the health care world will last long beyond this year.

News5 spoke with two health care professionals from Children's Hospital in Colorado Springs, who reflected on the long professional and personal journeys they have taken because of the virus.

Dr. Sara Saporta-Keating is a pediatric epidemiologist at Children's Hospital. Her job changed dramatically this year. "Gone from kind of a theoretical potential, to actualizing the thing that we're taught," she explained.

Still, Dr. Saporta-Keating said when she looks back on 2020, "there's a lot of things to be in awe of."

One of the challenges they faced was maintaining normal hospital operations, while also responding to the pandemic. They treated children with the virus at the hospital, while information changed rapidly surrounding the illness. One example of that evolving knowledge came in the form of an inflammatory syndrome associated with the virus and found in children, called MIS-C. "It hones in on importance of assessment skills, and patient presentation, and just doing that thorough assessment to figure out what's going on with the patient," said the Clinical Manager for the Emergency Department at Children's Hospital, Kelly Beach.

However, Beach said she never wants to grow stagnant in her career, and believes she experienced massive personal and professional growth as a result of the obstacles she and her co-workers overcame. "It seemed like every day there was something new, whether it was a cleaning standard, or how to collect a sample, or where the sample was going to go, or what courier was going to pick it up, and you know, there were all these things that were changing constantly," said Beach, remembering how quickly everything evolved.

Putting 2020 into a handful of words can be difficult, but Beach summed it up as "unpredictable, challenging, intense, but also rewarding."

While many people spent more time with their families this year as a result of staying home, health care professionals did not have that option. "Medical professionals didn't get as much time with our families like that. So, I think that was one reason that my family is something that shines in 2020 as being so grateful for, because my time that I did get with them was precious and valuable. Because a lot of time was required for our patients," said Beach.

When asked what Dr. Saporta-Keating is most grateful for this year, she said it's the speed at which the vaccine has been created. She just recently was vaccinated herself. "It's a personal choice. But I would urge people, it's another piece of that infection prevention puzzle to try and prevent people from getting the disease, and having to be hospitalized... A huge public health win, and I would really encourage people to strongly consider doing it, and if there are questions, then ask your health care provider," said Dr. Saporta-Keating.

Even though 2021 is here, Dr. Saporta-Keating said it's still important to practice social distancing, good hygiene, and wearing a face mask.

Working with children can teach valuable lessons about how to handle such tough obstacles. "Every day is a new day, and 2021 brings a new year. They may be some of the same challenges, but lean on those who love you, talk to people when you need to, seek out resources, and continue to support and love each other even through the difficult times," said Beach, thinking of what she's learned from children.

Children's Hospital never restricted their patients to zero visitors. Beach said one of the most concerning results of the pandemic is the mental health toll taken on children. The silver lining is the attention and awareness brought to pediatric mental health treatment during this time. Children's Hospital currently offers crisis and acute care services, and has made a commitment to implement outpatient behavioral health treatment in 2021.