Monday afternoon, my worst fear was realized. I started to have severe abdominal pain that only increased as time went on followed by severe nausea and vomiting; I knew exactly what was going on. You see, because of countless abdominal surgeries, I have a lot of scar tissue lining my abdominal cavity that leads to chronic small bowel obstructions and the symptoms I was experiencing lead me to think that this was the culprit. After going back in fourth in my mind rather or not I wanted to take the risk and head to the emergency department, I begrudgingly allowed my partner to take me so I could be evaluated.
I knew when I decided to go to the hospital that my partner would not be allowed to go in with me. This, along with severe anxiety from past medical trauma made it extremely hard to even agree to seek treatment, but my logical and sound mind knew it was the best decision for my health and well being. Upon arrival, I was immediately whisked back into the waiting room and my partner was told to either wait in the parking garage or go home. By this point, I was getting sicker by the minute and my anxiety and panic were building up inside me like a pressure tank about to explode.
After 12 hours of agonizing pain, vomiting profusely and having panic attack after panic attack, I was finally given a CT* scan that confirmed my suspicions, I had yet another small bowel obstruction. Luckily, this one wasn’t as severe as past times so my medical team felt confident that all that was needed was a night or two of hospital observation. However, by this time, I had been in the emergency department nearly 18 hours. My mind was racing and I felt scared, helpless and alone. The pressure tank finally exploded and against every sound and rational thought in my mind, I checked out AMA*.
Did I end up stumbling back into the emergency department 10 minutes later and being re-admitted? Yes. But you see, this response was my flight or fight. In that moment, my mind reverted back to the scared little girl that through test after test, surgery after surgery, and appointment after appointment, never had any ounce of control of what was happening to her body. Once again putting fear and trauma on the back burner, I laced up my bootstraps and “prepared for war” so to speak because my logical mind let me know that if I didn’t seek treatment, it could cost me my life.
To say that not having my care partner by my side during this ordeal was stressful is a severe understatement; it was complete and utter torture. While I understand that hospitals and healthcare centers around the world are doing the best they can to protect our valued healthcare workers, what about the cost to the patients mental and physical well-being? Countless studies have proved that stress lowers your immune response and causes us not to recuperate as fast as we normally would. Having a care partner at bedside is an essential part of the healing process, one that COVID-19 restrictions have completely destroyed. Not only are care partners essential to patients, but they are also an invaluable tool to healthcare workers. Healthcare teams have numerous patients each shift and it is impossible for them to focus their attention on just one. By having a care partner present, this helps to alleviate some stress on the healthcare workers part and helps to ensure patient safety.
As I said previously, I do understand why these regulations are put in place and I appreciate our healthcare centers and hospitals are doing everything they can to protect both staff and patients, but have we gone too far? Not allowing a care partner present at beside is detrimental to every party involved as you are not only denying a patient fast and smooth recovery, but also denying our healthcare workers a much needed asset in their toolbox. I am calling on all hospitals and healthcare centers worldwide to reconsider these harsh and damaging restrictions. As long as the care partner in question is not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, passes a temperature check, and dons the required PPE, they should be and need to be allowed at bedside.
COVID-19 is very serious and should continue to be treated as such, but we must also take seriously the physical and mental well-being of patients being cared for in healthcare centers during this scary and trying time in the world. COVID-19 won’t be here forever, but the trauma of being alone in such a dire condition will last a lifetime.
*CT= Computed Tomography- a radiology test done using a form of tomography, it provides a more in-depth picture of what’s going inside than a normal X-Ray
*AMA= Against Medical Advice – This is where you sign a waiver to self-discharge from the hospital against advice from medical professionals.