“Dispatch from Portland, Oregan” by Laura Wheatman Hill


I went to the pediatrician’s office today. Today, the day we found out school is cancelled an additional month because of public health concerns over the coronavirus. Today, the day my husband had to close his dental practice to all non-emergent cases because the governor had an executive order. He told his staff to apply for unemployment. Today, when we are supposed to be socially distancing, I went to the pediatrician’s office.

I didn’t want to. But they thought I should. A week before schools closed indefinitely, I took my three-year-old son into the office for a three-week wet cough. They asked me all the questions:

DOC: Have you been to Italy recently?

ME: (laughing) No!

DOC: Have you had contact with anyone diagnosed with cor–


Because it’s going around due to anti-vaxxers lowering herd immunity, they tested my (immunized) son for whooping cough (negative), concluded he had walking pneumonia, and needed antibiotics. He took them, got better, and the world fell apart.

Today, my six-year-old daughter’s three-week cough is sounding pretty wet. I’m thinking it’s pneumonia. She had pneumonia once before and started seeing a little girl ghost who hasn’t left the house since. I call the doctor’s office’s advice line and they say they need to see her in the office before they can prescribe anything.

“Do I have to?” I say, a child trapped in a middle-aged mom-bod.

“How’s 2pm?”

I think that 2pm is right when I was going to try to convince them to take naps, but okay, fine, 2pm.

The office is different today. There’s only one person at the front instead of two or three. I tell my kids not to touch anything or anyone in the office and, immediately, my daughter touches the statue of the children, the fish tank, and is one inch away from a little girl with a mask on when I call her over, hand-sanitize her, and admonish her. The receptionist asks my kids to wear masks. Both kids go into full sensory meltdown over this humble request. The boy starts screaming and tossing his head, not letting me put the mask on. The girl puts it on  but then comes up to me, her mouth turned down, shaking. “It hurts my face,” she says, her voice quivering. I plunge the cartoon-character-printed-mini-masks into my purse and give the kids my phone.

Mercifully, a masked nurse takes us back quickly and takes my daughter’s vitals.

I let them look at my phone some more while we wait for the doctor. There are usually books for the kids to look at while they wait. No more.

The doctor comes in, asks all the questions, and examines my daughter.

“Her lungs are perfect,” the doctor says. Why’d I drag us all in here?

“Oh good!” I manage.

“I think it’s a sinus infection. Both kids likely had the same virus but got different secondary infections. She needs ten days of antibiotics. It’s good you brought her in.”


The doctor nods.

“I wasn’t sure I should bring her in here…now.” I don’t want to cry in front of her. I don’t want to scare my kids

The doctor smiles and leaves.

While we wait for the prescription to be filled, I get the kids (and me) milkshakes. The drive-through is still open and the manager thanks me very earnestly for coming in. Both kids fall asleep in the car.

I’d be relieved if we had COVID-19. It would mean we would likely get over it. It would mean we probably wouldn’t infect more people.


           –March 27, 2020



Laura Wheatman Hill lives in Portland with her dentist and two children. She blogs about parenting, writes about everything, and teaches English and drama when not living in an apocalyptic dystopia. Her work has appeared in Scary Mommy, Filter Free Parenting, Motherwell, and Distressed Millennial. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @lwheatma.