Safe and Sound: Esmae’s Story

Esmae and Oliver, two patients in ENT, ride in a toy car.In April, as the coronavirus outbreak was nearing its peak in Connecticut, parents Jasmyn and Tony Carapezza got some inconvenient news. “Listen,” their pediatrician told them, “I know things are scary right now. But Esmae needs ear tubes.” Their 10-month-old daughter, Esmae, had had five ear infections in the past five months. She’d gone from being a mild, easy baby to sleepless and inconsolable.

Jasmyn took a deep breath. The family had been careful about sheltering at home since the start of the pandemic. Surgery wasn’t what she had in mind for a first outing.

“I think Connecticut Children’s is the only place you can go,” Esmae’s pediatrician added.

“I said, ‘That’s fine,’” Jasmyn recalls. “’Because if we’re going to do surgery, I want to go back to Dr. Grindle.’”

Three months earlier, ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist Christopher Grindle, MD, had operated on the Carapezzas’ 4-year-old son, Oliver, removing his tonsils and adenoids as a treatment for sleep apnea. “It was life-changing,” says Jasmyn: Oliver was finally sleeping through the night – healthy, restful sleep – and the surgery itself had been a positive experience for the whole family.

But that had been in January – pre-COVID. How would the surgery experience look and feel, now that the coronavirus had changed so much else in their lives?

Before surgery: “Just as good as going in person”

Connecticut Children’s enhanced safety program, Safe and Sound, makes sure children like Esmae get the care they need, and parents like Jasmyn and Tony get peace of mind that their child is safe and sound every step of the way.

Safe and Sound builds on Connecticut Children’s rigorous safety standards with new precautions to protect patients, families and team members from the pandemic. This includes COVID-19 screening and testing, enhanced sanitizing protocols, social distancing and many more safety measures. (For detailed information, visit connecticutchildrens.org/safeandsound.)

Having recently gone through Oliver’s surgery, the Carapezzas were able to spot a few changes right away.

The first was the pre-surgery consultation: Rather than coming to see Dr. Grindle in person, Jasmyn and Esmae met with him virtually, via Video Visit. Jasmyn had been surprised to hear it was an option – “but it was just as good as going in person,” she says.

They scheduled the ear tube surgery, did a phone screening to make sure no one in the family had COVID-19 symptoms or exposure, and set up a drive-through COVID-19 test for Esmae. “That was the hardest part of the whole thing,” Jasmyn says, “but it was super quick.” The result came back negative, and Esmae’s surgery was confirmed.

The day of surgery: “They know how to handle kids”

Esmae waits for her ear tube surgery with her mom.

As a safety precaution, only one parent or caregiver may now accompany their child to a surgery, procedure or face-to-face visit. On the May morning of Esmae’s surgery, Jasmyn wore a mask, and she and Esmae had their temperatures taken right when they walked into Connecticut Children’s Farmington surgery center, just like every other visitor and employee (masks are only required on children ages 2 and up). She and Esmae were assigned their own area to stretch out in while waiting, the first of many social distancing measures. From across the room, as Esmae waved at nurses passing by, Jasmyn watched a team member sanitizing the check-in area. “She was very thorough with cleaning right after we walked away,” Jasmyn says. “And everyone was as friendly ever. It was just like always, except everyone was wearing masks.”

Dr. Grindle and the anesthesiologist came out to talk with Jasmyn and Esmae, and then it was time for the procedure. At Oliver’s surgery in January, one parent had been allowed to be present while Oliver received anesthesia, but this this is no longer the case: Instead, a clinician came out to greet Esmae, and brought her back while Jasmyn stayed in the waiting area. “For me, that was actually better, because that was the part I’d struggled with,” Jasmyn says, “And I knew they’d take great care of Esmae. They know how to handle kids.”

About 10 minutes later, Jasmyn received a message from Dr. Grindle’s team via the EASE mobile app: Esmae was already out of surgery.

“She was a little grumpy. She watched a little TV. And just like that, we were on our way!” Jasmyn laughs. “It was so smooth. Her surgery was at 7 am and we were out by 8 am.”

Safe and sound: “I felt confident and comfortable”

At home in New Milford, Esmae is back to being “the happiest baby in the world,” says Jasmyn. The ear infections are gone. Everyone is finally sleeping again.

“I told Dr. Grindle he’s our miracle worker,” Jasmyn says. “He has taken such great care of our kids.”

Connecticut Children’s had promised to keep her children safe and sound for her, Jasmyn says, and that’s exactly how she’d felt. In fact, driving home from Esmae’s surgery, she realized she’d hardly thought about the coronavirus once.

“Everything felt clean. Everyone was so friendly. It felt like a surgery from a normal time in life,” she says. “I’m usually very anxious about COVID, so that’s a big deal. We really did have a great experience in this time of uncertainty. I felt confident and comfortable.”

Learn more about the Connecticut Children’s Ear, Nose & Throat services >
Learn how we’re keeping kids safe and sound at surgeries, procedures and visits >

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