Slow the spread of COVID-19 to save lives

Marla Ballard’s Who's Who appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday and weekend editions.

Dominick Battel, age 38, woke up one morning in mid-April with tightness in his chest. He convinced himself and his wife to give it some time to see if the symptoms subsided, reported

Battel’s delayed going to an ER due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. By the time the ambulance reached him it was too late. When I read this news report I asked myself, “What would I have done?” I remember thinking I hope I don’t have to face that decision.

On Monday, July 27, I ended up facing a similar decision. At 3:30 a.m. I discovered I was unable to urinate. My mind raced trying to figure out what to do. I had been battling a kidney stone for several days and figured it must have become trapped in one of my ureters. However, I should have been able to empty my bladder through use of the other kidney. The dilemma confused me.

Admittedly, it did cross my mind to wait a few hours and see if the problem would go away. Although my health issue was different I did remember Dominick Battel and decided to head for a hospital.

I knew I had to go to a hospital that had a urologist on-call and so headed to one I had used in the past.

Only I was permitted to enter the hospital leaving my husband in the parking lot. The triage nurse told me immediately the wait would be very, very long. I asked if the wait was due to COVID. She responded, “yes.” I knew that if this hospital was full then all hospitals in the area would be full and I just had to wait.

The ER waiting room housed approximately six patients waiting their turn. After a couple of hours a phlebotomist came to take a blood sample from me in the ER waiting room. By hour five I was taken to get a CAT scan which revealed I had a the rare condition of a kidney stone blocking each ureter.

Once the CAT scan was read I was rushed to surgery, being told I was in renal failure. Thankfully, I never drank anything while I was waiting which could have resulted in a rupture of the kidney.

If I had waited at home to see if my problem would resolve itself and then added on the wait time at the ER I would either have ended up on kidney dialysis or have passed away due to renal failure. Time was of the essence.

Battles and I are not alone in making this life and death decision. Just watch the evening news and you’ll see that the number of people going to emergency rooms during this pandemic is lower than usual.

Having had surgeries before and being able to compare my recent experience to my past experiences I know that the aftercare was not the same.

Equipment that I was generally connected to, as a COPD patient, was simply not available. I’m sure all oxygen monitors were being used on other patients.

I was relieved they were able to find a bed for me for one night so I could receive oxygen since my oxygen level kept plummeting into the 70s.

My lungs had a great deal of fluid in them post-op. I could feel the fluid in them gurgling. When I realized there was no monitor to alert a nurse outside of my room if I was to stop breathing I knew I had to stay awake all night and make myself cough to avoid letting pneumonia set in.

I’ve seen doctors on TV saying, “that people who do not have COVID are dying due to COVID.” I didn’t fully grasp what that meant, I do now.

With that said if you feel you’re facing a serious health issue it is still in your best interest to not delay seeking help. Those on the front lines are doing the best they can with what they have. No one was prepared for this.

Please wear your mask to slow down the spread of COVID-19. Our hospitals are packed and people who do not even have COVID are being affected.

— Marla Ballard’s Who's Who appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday and weekend editions.

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