Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Heart to Heart

Update 2/4: Doctors in NSW are no longer treating patients with colds or flu in person. They do it on the phone.

FOR MOST people a visit to the hospital is a daunting task at the best of times. Can you imagine the trauma that people must be going through during these CV times. For a start, the biggest fear would be that of catching the pandemic monster. That is perhaps the only reason why Accident & Emergency is suddenly devoid of the throngs of people that crowded the waiting rooms. On any normal day, it is nothing to spend a whole day waiting to be checked out. That in itself is a traumatic experience, a major one at that and often has own set of new emergencies. So, there you are, sitting patiently, reading your book or your mag, or fiddling about with your cell phone, or just twiddling your thumbs and awaiting God’s will.

You lift your head and look at the hospital clerical staff logging in new patients, or the triage team allocating patients to various doctors. With the babel of voices, the floods of tears, and the crying, begging voices, with some patients beating their breasts begging for a doctor to see them only to be told to “take a seat and wait to be called.” I have every sympathy for anyone who has to deal with the general public, anywhere, at any time in any hospital anywhere.

I could only imagine the hell that was being played out in these coronavirus times.
Like most people, I did not want to go to A&E. But these days I do not mess with bravado and when I feel at risk I head for my friendly GP and specialist consultant if need be. One day last week, I went for my usual walk and after gone some 500 steps I felt a little tightening in my chest. I stopped, calmed myself down, got in the car and proceeded to the medical centre.

I have this thing about ECG machines (electrocardiograms?). In 2011, while in North Goa, I had severe chest pains and first and second clinics I was rushed to by my friend Mal and Margaret were broken. However, it was a good thing that they were because I directed to a hospital in Mapusa and from the moment I got there, everything went like clockwork and I received a stent and was out of there in two and a half days on Boxing Day and back in Australia 48 hours later.

So, it was no surprise to me that the ECG machine at my local medical centre was playing up but did produce a somewhat suspect all clear reading. I think the GP was more nervous than I was because she was rushing me to the hospital emergency. Fortunately, there is another doctor at the medical centre who is most respected, especially in the area of cardiology. He took one look and said that I looked OK.

The first GP came back to me in a state of some angst and said to me in the loudest voice possible: Go and see your cardiologist first thing on Monday morning. The rest of Saturday and Sunday passed without any issues, but I was a little nervous.

When Monday came I called my cardiologist only to be told by the receptionist that because of the CV safety requirements including social distancing, the heart centre was closed for the time being but I should present myself to A&E and my cardiologist would get in touch via the mobile.
I was feeling OK and I was increasing feeling a little guilty because the medical staff at the hospital would have been run off their feet in dealing with the increasing coronavirus patients.
I did not want to be an idiotic martyr and so I hope in the car and went Westmead Hospital, 10 minutes from where I live in Western Sydney.

First surprise: the place was virtually empty. Second surprise: I was with a doctor and a nurse within 10 minutes. My nurse, J.  a third-year graduate, probably one of the best I have met, told me in passing that one reason for E&R being a little “empty” was because people were doing the right thing and not flooding the hospital. The other reason, for like everyone else, CV was a big deterrent. My nurse, J. is a natural. She has that very special gift of quickly reassuring her patients by providing all the decisive information. Her confidence alone will set her patients at ease, most times. My doctor, A.E., was no less special, together they made a very special team. Thus, I went through the testing routine (ECGs, blood tests, X-rays, and this and that) with complete ease. All the test results were “really good” I got in there around 1 pm and by 5 pm I was completely back to my old self, with all my confidence replenished.

I think one of the reasons I felt so good was the fact that Coronavirus was nowhere to be seen or heard of in E&R. Every member of the hospital staff went about their work cheerfully and confidently. There was no prevailing sense of doom or medical catastrophe. Very professional. There has never been a time when they have never been anything else but in my experience.
I will be talking to the specialists from the cardiology clinic at the hospital and I expect a similar professional experience. My own cardiologist and I will now have a virtual reality relationship via the mobile.

Just want to record my thanks and admiration for everyone, the many, many thousands, in Australian hospitals and medical centres and clinics, who care for and nurse us all.

While that might have been the exception to the rule, we are living a pretty precarious and threatening life. I don't mean to be negative or add to people's concerns but I know people in the US, UK, Spain and Italy can only turn to prayer for their salvation. It is the same in Australia and all the other countries affected by the coronavirus. These are frightening times indeed.

Those scenes of the police beating up Goans for allegedly not adhering to the safety precautions is mind boggling. Really that kind of savagery in this day and age?

We live one day at a time, as we have often said but this time it is frighteningly true.

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