BrightStart is a PPEC (Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care) providing medically fragile children nursing, therapy and love at our three locations in Central Florida. Like everyone, our world stopped in March of 2020. In the early days of this pandemic there was a lot of fear and not a lot of knowledge. At BrightStart, we closed completely for a brief period while we consulted with our Medical Directors, developed safety protocols and searched for necessary supplies. We then began slowly adding patients back into our program.

As a precaution in reopening, we act as if each child is COVID positive – because they could be. Within the center each child has their own space, physically separated from another. This space also must meet their developmental needs, so each child has their own set of appropriate toys. This is more challenging for our active toddlers and preschoolers, but we found our way to provide the skilled nursing care that our children desperately need in the safest environment possible.

We also made changes to our physical environment. We rearranged and bought additional furniture to create physical boundaries. UV sterilization units installed in our A/C handlers kill viruses in the air. Electrostatic sprayers are used to sterilize our centers. These amazing tools enable sterilizing solution to wrap around surfaces instead of layering on top, giving us confidence that our cribs, toys, highchairs, transport vans, etc. are clean. These were expensive undertakings but we knew that the investment would benefit our kids long past the COVID experience. I’m so glad we did it.

BrightStart is known for the fun activities that we offer for our patients. This had to cease initially to limit the people coming in and out of our facilities, but we are happy to report that we are finding creative ways to resume what can be done safely. We began with carefully planned Superhero visits, kept it rolling to Halloween and most recently visits from Santa. We’re looking forward to enjoying our Spring Break this year! These activities are an important part of a child’s socialization (and loved by their parents!).

Love is central to who we are at BrightStart and while we’re now in a different world, that love has never stopped. Our caregivers wear masks at all times and gloves/gowns individual to each child whenever handling a child. Though we must be covered up, our love comes through in our hugs, our smiling eyes and expressive voices.

I am happy to report that, to date, though we have had employees and children in the centers who were later found to be positive for COVID19, we have not had a single patient acquire the virus from BrightStart. I am so thankful for the vigilance of our staff and for their dedication to our mission. We’re proud to say that we have come through this process stronger and better able to serve the kids we love so much. We know there are “Brighter” days ahead!

Linda Brown is the president and owner of BrightStart Pediatrics, a PPEC program. BrightStart serves Central Florida from locations in Winter Garden, Sanford and Orlando. For more information visit brightstartpeds.com.