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Getting Emergency Surgery During a Pandemic

By Jenny Reilly | July 27, 2020


I’ve been quarantining and working from home since March. It has been an adjustment trying to figure out my work life balance when conducting business in my childhood bedroom, wearing a mask to the grocery store and seeing friends through Zoom and Facetime instead of in person, but it was all something I got used to. I got used to the new normal. It all was going smoothly until it didn’t one weekend mid-July.

I hadn’t been feeling well for a few days. I had an upset stomach and pains through my abdomen. Normally, I am the kind of person who toughs it out and if it’s really bad, I’ll pop a Tylenol. Despite not feeling my best for 3 days, I was reluctant to go see my doctor or go to urgent care because I did not want to expose myself (or my at-risk parents) to COVID-19. After a Saturday night spent tossing and turning in pain, I made the decision to visit Urgent Care on Sunday morning. I was so exhausted and weak from not eating, my mom drove me but wasn’t able to come inside with me. To try to protect myself I wore my mask and brought ample amounts of hand sanitizer in my purse.

At the door, a nurse checked my temperature, asked if I had any symptoms of COVID-19, and my reason for being there. I passed with flying colors. The waiting room was taped off, allowing for social distance between patients. Since I went early, there was no one else in the waiting room and I was brought back to a bed fairly quickly. After blood tests proved inconclusive, the doctor sent me to get a CAT scan. The CAT scan showed an enlarged appendix consistent with appendicitis and the doctor had already called over to Overlook hospital to see if a surgeon could take me for an emergency appendectomy. I was shocked as I gathered my things and went to go tell my mom outside that I needed to go to the Emergency Room to get my appendix removed.

That’s when the panic set in. I didn’t want to go to a hospital, there’s a global pandemic going on! Despite my fears, I went home to quickly gather a few things in case I needed to stay at the hospital overnight (spoiler alert: I did). I called my boss, boyfriend, texted my friends to let them know what was happening as my dad drove with me to Overlook. When I got to the ER, I was met by a nurse outside who took my temperature again and then I went into registration. Honestly, this was the quickest I’ve ever gone through registration into a room. Maybe people since they were expecting me it went faster or maybe most people like me were afraid of going into a hospital at this time. To be fair, I’ve only been in the ER twice in my life as a kid.

Once I was settled in the back, my dad left and I was on my own. The ER nurse was great. Despite being very nervous about the whole situation, he made me feel at ease and even made me laugh a few times. I needed to get a COVID-19 test prior to being admitted for surgery so I had to wait for about two hours in an ER room. I was hooked up to an IV and spent those hours getting lost in the world of TikTok. I came back negative for Coronavirus and began to prepare for surgery. All of the doctors, nurses, and staff at the hospital had their PPE on and I kept my mask on up until I was wheeled into the operating room. I even woke up in recovery and my mask was back on.

Due to some complications, I had to stay overnight at the hospital. I only was allowed to remove my mask when I was on my own in my room. If I needed to call the nurse, I put my mask back on to protect myself and others. I spent my night at the hospital watching Legally Blonde, Food Network, and resting. When I was discharged the next morning, I called my parents to pick me up and they could only meet me at the entrance of the hospital, they could not come in to get me. Although I was sore and tired from the surgery, I’m happy I listened to my body and caught the appendicitis before it got worse. I felt very safe at the hospital, everyone was wearing a mask, keeping everything clean, and limiting the number of people who were allowed in the hospital. Would I want to go back to the hospital again during this pandemic, absolutely not, but I am confident that the staff at Overlook is taking the upmost precaution against COVID-19. I’m so grateful for all their hard work and how caring and comforting they were to me.

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