Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

The Difference A Year Makes

To say I have a lot of experience in medicine and hospitals, is an understatement.  The majority of time has been as a patient, but I have also spent my share of time as a caregiver.

The one thing that is most important for most patients, is emotional support.  Yes, caring and empathetic nurses and doctors are great, but those closest to you, family and/or friends are just as important.  You show up to an appointment for surgery or treatment, and you might have your spouse, a parent, or someone else close, to help comfort you after it is over.  This is almost as important as the event itself.

As I said, I have spent a long time in medicine, so I know this drill very well.  But instead of reflecting on my lifetime of experience, I will just make note of the last two years.  To be in full disclosure, most of my medical events and emergencies, I was pretty much on my own handling the situations.  To show the diversity that I am trying to present, I have two examples.

A couple of years ago, I was rushed to the hospital with chest pains.  Fortunately, it ended up being nothing.  But, having support, or a health advocate along, made a huge difference.  In the event I would be able to communicate, they possessed the necessary information medical personnel would need to know about me before treating me (due to my late health issues from my treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma).  This individual was there from the time I arrived, and eventually moved to a room for observation, until I was released.

And then, there was the second heart surgery I had just before that ER trip.  My health advocate was there before the surgery, during the surgery, and when I came to.  The next day, my advocate came and picked me up to transport me home.

Fortunately, my visits to the hospital have decreased over recent years.  I did not need to make any trips to the hospital since then.

And then Covid19 hit.  A trip to the hospital would never be the same.  While I have not been to the ER, I have heard that loved ones are not even allowed into the Emergency Room area, at best, waiting in their cars in the parking lot, for a phone call from inside, updating them on the situation.  Once the patient is dealt with, and either released or moved to a room, only then can the loved one be present.

As I mentioned, I recently underwent a major surgery, again, due to my progressive health issues from my treatments for Hodgkin’s.  I am used to going through my experiences mostly on my own.  But this is the first time, I was being denied having that support with me, at least in the pre-surgery stage.  There is a calmness that can be provided to help with the nerves, especially during such a critical surgery.  And for once, I had an advocate that wanted to be there.  But was not allowed.

After clearing through a rapid Covid test, I took an early morning Uber to the hospital, alone.  Again, in the past, this was never a thought.  But as I walked into the hospital, alone, I soon discovered why, these kinds of restrictions are in place, and why.  I went through screening, and then went upstairs to the reception room, waiting to be called.

My advocate, would remain at home, waiting for updates to come, prep for surgery, start surgery, completion, and post op.  Once I was moved to my room for recovery, then my advocate was allowed to come to the hospital, go through screenings as well, and spent time with me, as well as gathering more information about my upcoming days of recovery.

The main company I had, were the various nurses.  I will always sing the praises of these angels (as well as point out the one or two I have had that were flat out bitches and should not be nurses).  It seemed that almost all of my nurses were in the field barely even a year, definitely less than two years.

I have known many nurses over the years, and I am sure so many have stories and memories of their careers, good and sad ones.  These nurses were great.  I never got to see their faces, because they were always gowned up with masks.  But I knew they were young.  It is hard to imagine, as I am sure for them, they could never have thought their first years as a nurse would be dealing with the devastation of Covid19.

In talking with them, they shared the memories of happy endings, and tragic ones.  They spoke of the efforts they did to comfort both patients and their families, coordinating so that final days would not have to spent alone.  They themselves, because of their vocation, put their lives on the lines every day.

Not to be left out, even the custodians and food service people that came by, took the precautions.  And you know what?  In a building that you would feel would have the highest risk for Covid with patients being treated for it, I never felt more safe than I did there, and the transmission rates are lowest in most hospitals because of these precautions.  It will be a while until I have this confidence to return to dining in experiences, movies, and concerts again.  I know that day will come.  I can wait.  The alternative of me contracting Covid, with the warning from my doctors (not the media), I would not survive.

I bring this up for a reason.  We are all tired and fatigued with the restrictions on our social activities and ability to travel.  False comments on sacrifices recommended to not only stay healthy but somehow try to reduce the severity of the spread of our nations second worst health crisis, and the push to “open” everything and ignore simple mitigation efforts only show that we will be dealing with Covid a lot longer.  The problem was that the crisis was not handled properly from the beginning.  We know this.

I do believe this crisis will come to an end, and we will have learned a very tragic lesson, and hopefully never repeat it.  Or at the least, we have learned how to “live with it” via herd immunity.

In any case, there needs to come a time, that loved ones and other support advocates are one day allowed to accompany patients again.  Cancer patients, surgery patients, and even just doctor visits, that company is just too important to the success of the patient.

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