Letter to the Editor: COVID-19 threatens access to medical treatment; stressed professionals go above and beyond

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My family and I experienced a near tragedy this week. I want to share this to give some insight into our current COVID situation but also for other reasons. My precious Mother fell, causing a brain bleed. I want to give a big shout out to Cullman Medical Center ER staff for providing excellent care while we were there. The staff acted very quickly to get her a bed and necessary tests. We were given a hallway bed due to so many patients there. I’m not complaining but wanting you to know just how many people are sick right now. Due to the serious nature of her injury, tests were completed quickly. The doctor told me her diagnosis and that she needed to be airlifted to UAB or Huntsville Hospital.

I was still trying to process this when he came back to deliver the daunting news that neither hospital could take her because they had no rooms available. I’ll never forget the look on his face when he told me. Despite wearing a mask, I could see how it affected him. Medical professionals work so hard to take care of patients. The fact he couldn’t get her to a place to provide the level of care she needed was a hard pill to swallow (pardon the pun). He told me he was calling other hospitals and would let me know. When he came back, he had that same look. This time the news was even more daunting. He had called 20 hospitals throughout Alabama. Not one had a bed. Now he said he would call out of state and named three in particular- Tupelo, Mississippi; Nashville, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia. After a few minutes, he came back and said a hospital in Florence called back to say a patient had been discharged and could take her.  She was flown to North Alabama Medical Center in Florence. She was given excellent care there as well. (Sunday) we were able to bring her home.

Why post this?  First, I want to encourage you to do all you can to stop the spread of this virus. The virus is real. It is NOT a hoax.  People are hospitalized and many have died. Wearing a mask and following other recommendations is not a big deal compared to losing someone you love. Unless you have been in a situation like mine recently, you cannot possibly imagine the gut wrenching despair and fear that someone you love may die because they can’t get the level of care they need due to lack of hospital bed space. Please, please wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands. I am sickened when I hear “It’s my right not to wear a mask. I won’t be a sheeple.”  It’s just a matter of simple respect for your fellow man. My mother also has a right- a right to receive the appropriate level of medical care. There was a time when people had to be told to wear a seat belt or get vaccinations. Same difference to me.

Secondly, please take the time to thank medical professionals and first responders. They truly are heroes. They are overworked and put themselves at risk every single day to save other lives. They sacrifice time with their family and risk getting sick themselves. I experienced nothing but care, compassion and a desire to provide the best medical care possible to my Mother despite all this. I’ll be forever thankful to all who continue to fight the battles day in and day out during this pandemic.

Thirdly, I want to give thanks to my Heavenly Father for allowing us to enjoy time on earth a while longer with my precious Mother.  Like many others in similar situations, I found myself praying, selfishly begging Him to please get her through this. I finally changed that prayer to one that was more trusting of His wisdom. My Mother looked at me before she was airlifted and asked me if she was going to die. I told her the truth. I promised her she was going to be alright. How did I know that?  Because I knew that if God called her home, she would be more than alright.

I would appreciate continued prayers for Mother. She still has hard work ahead in her recovery.

Gail Swafford