By Abbie Cornett
In the last few months, I have read many articles and even written a few on how the practice of medicine has changed during the pandemic. However, reading and writing about these changes are not the same as experiencing them firsthand.
I was originally scheduled to have some minor outpatient surgery in March. But, the surgery was postponed until the end of July due to the pandemic. I've had several surgeries in the past, but I had not considered what having one during a pandemic would entail. Let's just say, nothing is the same!
Before I could have the surgery, I had to have a COVID-19 test. Living in Los Angeles County, this meant I had to wait in a parking lot in 100 degree-plus weather for almost five hours along with people who were obviously sick. Thankfully, after being triaged and determining I wasn't sick, but only needed a pre-op test, they allowed me to wait in my car. Who would have thought this was the easy part?
While the surgery center made my instructions for the day of surgery clear, I didn't fully realize how the new procedures would affect me. I understood my husband would not be able to accompany me into the surgery center, but this didn't really hit home until he dropped me off and I had to walk in by myself. He wasn't any happier than I was; people like to be physically close to the people they love when they are ill or need treatment.
The real issue, though, was when I woke up. I remember the doctor telling me they had had to do more work than planned, and there something about a cast for four to six weeks. The rest was a blank in my memory from the anesthesia. Prior to the surgery, I knew it was supposed to be orthoscopic, and I had to rest for 10 days with minor discomfort. Yet, when I left the surgery center, I was bandaged, casted to my elbow and in a lot of pain. My husband kept asking, "What did they do?" and I honestly couldn't answer him.
When I was able to speak to the doctor the next day, I found out the quick minor surgery had turned into a reconstruction of the ligaments in my hand and arm. I wasn't upset about the additional surgery, but both my husband I were disturbed no one had been there when it was explained to me.
When I went in for my post-operative check, my doctor and I had a long talk about the situation. My takeaway is the medical providers are just as frustrated as the patients. COVID-19 has made us all rethink how things are done. It is important to understand life is unpredictable right now for everyone, including care providers. My best advice for patients is not to assume anything is going to be the way it was for a while, and to be better prepared than I was!