What it is like to have a surgery during a pandemic

Written by: Grace Moore

Having to have surgery during a pandemic is NOT something I ever predicted happening to me in my life. But then again, I never expected to live during a pandemic in the first place.

On February 25, before COVID 19 was even a predominant thought in the minds of me and my classmates, my parents rushed me to the ER because of a severe pain in my abdomen. As I sat in the waiting room, doubled over in pain, I heard a young couple talking about the virus. “They say it spreads faster than the flu,” the man said. “It won’t be anything for us to worry about sweetheart,” his girlfriend responded.

Nothing for us to worry about.

That’s almost laughable now, in the face of something that has changed anything and everything about my and so many others lives. But, back to the reason I was there in the first place.

It turns out I had a diseased gallbladder, and the source of the pain was gallstones trying to pass through my body, but they were too big to do so. So, I needed to have my gallbladder removed.

I couldn’t have the surgery that week, because of an upcoming journalism trip, and the doctor said as long as I wasn’t constantly in pain, then I could get away with waiting a few weeks. But then, on March 13, the first case of the Coronavirus made its way to Alabama, and a few weeks became nearly three months. It wasn’t until Gov Ivey opened the state back up at the beginning of May that I could even schedule my surgery.

Finally, I got a call that said my operation could be scheduled for Monday, May 11. Four days before my online APUSH exam, to be exact (which I swear I aced, by the way). And as many times as i’ve been to the hospital to visit family members, this was a completely different environment.

I was told I could only have one visitor during the entire process (which was only allowed because I’m still a minor). As soon as me and my older brother walked in (he had to accompany me instead of my parents, as my dad is at high risk), People sitting at a table by the door took our temperatures. They had signs on every other chair in the waiting room labeled “Thank you for not sitting here.” We had to wear a mask the entire time during my Pre-Op process, even in my room. They checked my temperature two more times prior to the surgery, and asked me multiple times about several symptoms of the virus and whether I had shown them. They asked where I had been recently, and where the family members I had lived with had been as well. They were all very polite, and based off my answers they did not test me for the Coronavirus, so off to surgery I went.

Waking up from surgery was the most disorienting thing ever, especially since I never remembered going to sleep in the first place. I had to wear a mask for them to transfer me from recovery to my permanent room, but after that I did not have to keep it on. My brother however, had to have his when a nurse or anyone came into the room. I ended up being discharged early instead of staying overnight, since I was able to eat and keep the food down.

I don’t write any of this to complain. I had no issue with wearing the mask because I care about the lives of those around me, and in my opinion everyone should. I write this only to show how hospital policies were changed due to the ongoing pandemic. It was quite the experience, but all worth it as I am now recovering very well. While it was different, it didn’t hurt me to wear the mask, answer extra questions and get my temperature checked. In fact, it was the least I could do.

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