by Mark Stinson
Chapel Hill, NC – I’m posting our experience so others are aware of what COVID-19 has done to health care. Our doctors and nurses are working within restrictions that make doing their job problematic. This happened to us over the weekend .
Friday night about 11:30 pm during a normal conversation Beth drew a blank stare. She just looked out into space and didn’t respond to any of us in the room. She contorted to the left side as the area around her left eye turned almost black as if she had been hit with a fist to leave a black eye. Her right eye was fixed straight ahead as her left crossed turning directly inward towards the right. It terrified all of us and she was totally unresponsive. Her left arm drew up in to her chest and she rolled in the chair. We caught her and tried talking to her but she was totally blank. For about a minute and a half this went on and as suddenly as she blanked out she came back dazed and asked what happened. She had no clue what happened and was not totally coherent.
Her color left her so that she looked like a dead person totally white except for a black eye that was now swollen. We picked her up and carried her to the bedroom where we put her on the bed. I propped her feet up and got an ice pack for the eye. She related she was tingling on her left side and was nauseous. I took her blood pressure and it was 99/48 so I tried to call 911. Cell service is sporadic at this location and the call wouldn’t go through. She was conscious at this point and continued to answer us. We elected to transport her to Chatham Hospital ASAP. Drew pulled his suburban near the front door and we picked her up and carried her out the front door using her office chair as a gurney.
On arrival at Chatham Hospital I was given a mask to check her in with. She didn’t know what happened to her and I witnessed it but I was not allowed to go in with her even though they gave me a mask. I had to relay as much as I could to the intake person when I checked her in. We were told to wait in the parking lot. I got a call from a nurse 45 minutes to an hour later that she was tested for covid and was negative. The doctor called me about 2 am. The doctor went above and beyond communicating with me and informing me of the process. I was able to convey to her what happened and she was able to take that information and proceed. Dr Miles, you are AWESOME!
The determination was Beth may have had a rare type of stroke or seizure. They could not treat her properly at Chatham and were making arrangements for transport to UNC. She was still experiencing weakness , headache , nausea and dizziness. She was mentally foggy but was able to text me at this point. Our only communication was by text for the next 13 hours.
I was informed I couldn’t go with her to Chapel Hill or in the hospital at Chapel Hill due to COVID-19 restrictions. Now just imagine how scared Beth was all alone and how helpless I was knowing she couldn’t convey to the doctors what happened to her. I managed to get Beth’s cell phone charger to her before she left.
These are some of her actual text and times over the next few hours. I arrived home just before 5 am. Beth texted me at 4:54 am that she had arrived at UNC. They tested her again for Covid-19 at 5:38 am. (Why?) She said the second Covid-19 test was very painful and the doc would call me but that call never came. She was scrambling words in text by 5:52 when they took her back to wait for MRI but I understood her. 6:31 am she texted me, (No covid , again , going to MRI ). The next text was at 7:19 (still waiting) She related she was still dizzy but mentally clearer and I noticed her texts improved. She hadn’t received any meds yet except for the meds she received at Chatham around 12:30 am. MRI was done by 8:30 am. She texted she was waiting on them to read them. Her next text was 9:35 am, (wish they would get on with it). I got a text 11:07 am, ( Hey still waiting layer in her 2 hours no one came back to check on me or hook me back up) 11:18 am (MRI was inconclusive so considered ok so they gave me nausea meds and Tylenol. The doc said evidence was there to support some type of event whether it be stroke or seizure but no idea yet). 2:19 PM text, (Come get me babe). Pay attention to next few texts. 2:48 pm, (taking me downstairs now) 2:52 pm (I am on the bench outside not to swift) We were in transit to get her and pulled into Chapel Hill as I received this text . 3:04 pm text (Took me back for fluids almost past out)
We pulled up in front of the hospital about 3:10 pm and waited 20 minutes. I received no more text from her. I walked to the door and was given a mask and told to stand behind a line just inside the door. I asked about Beth and where she was and related that she had been released. The lady took several minutes to locate Beth and stated she was not flagged to be released. I responded we just drove 45 miles to pick her up because they released her earlier as I explained the situation. I waited yet a few more minutes to be instructed to wait out front; she would be out soon.
The guard told us to pull up and parked us in the direct sun in a vehicle with no AC where we waited another hour and a half with no texts, no doc call, nothing. I have restrictive airway disease and high blood pressure so me and 90 degree heat don’t play well together. I walked back in and asked for an explanation and they couldn’t find Beth in the hospital. The desk persons calls went on and finally I was given a card to call the nurses’ station. I called and they had her in ER giving her fluids. She had passed out a total of three times. I was also notified that they were still releasing her but I had to go to the white tent outside ER to get her. The nurse said they wanted to walk her around to make sure she was stable enough to go and would call me. The guards changed and as I walked back out into the heat and he informed me Dogwood deck was free parking and I could wait there in the shade. I could have kissed him and smacked the crap out of the first guard who didn’t relate that one simple fact.
We waited there in the Dogwood parking deck in the shade with a good breeze till I got a text from Beth at 6:24 pm (I’m coming no jumped when walking) 6:26 (we coming) then 6:33 pm (come to we). I called the nurse back and she clarified yes we are bringing her to the ER tent and you will see her and a nurse. We drove around to get her and now I spotted the bench Beth was talking about earlier and picked her up. Other than talking to the nurse about where she was and the front desk attendant, no one had called me to fill me in on what was up with Beth all day. Communication at UNC Chapel Hill about her condition was nonexistent.
With no answers and lots of questions I must relate to you the condition I received Beth. She was not steady on her feet. Her speech sounded normal but her words were sometimes scrambled like her text. Her mind was clear and she was aware of what happened over the last few hours and gave me some answers.
UNC didn’t admit her but treated her as an outpatient. When she got to UNC she had a number of folks attend to her until they did the covid test. Once that test was negative she felt abandoned as virtually no one checked on her. She had not been fed and only received fluids after she passed out when they released her the first time. They sat her on the bench outside the ER to be picked up and if the nurse hadn’t seen her start to fall over she would have cracked her head open on the sidewalk.
There was a miscommunication at some point as the ER doc was not happy someone hadn’t given Beth fluids on intake to start with earlier. Secondly Beth had two veins blow during the process of hooking up fluids and she bled out all over her clothes and the floor. That’s what happened. I’m not asserting someone did something wrong as veins can blow during that process. It was how she was delivered to me on exit that was disturbing. She was unstable, looked bad and just dumped on the curb bench more or less. There was a nurse with her but I wasn’t thrilled about the way all of it transpired. Beth related that she passed out in the ER after they took her back for fluids earlier and they put her cell on a table out of reach. She fell asleep while getting fluids and once up to leave she passed out again so they had to wait, walk her and finally let her go .
The orders on her discharge sheet said she had to get with neurologist and her doctor plus an eco cardiogram this week. We got her a big cold drink on the way home and it helped her feel a bit better. She threw up all Saturday night and all day Sunday. Her headache and left side weakness didn’t improve much till Monday morning. We called to get appointments and that’s where coronavirus restrictions and confusion stuck again.
She got an appointment with her doctor at Chatham primary Wednesday. We woke to be called and informed it would be a phone visit. Her doctor related many of her symptoms were similar to covid, but we responded she had two tests done Saturday saying negative. We were informed that some individuals had false negative test results who got sick later and then tested positive when symptoms worsened. The second MRI couldn’t be done till Friday in Hillsboro and the eco will be done after it. The neurologist won’t be able to work her in till June 26. After her phone visit her doc ordered another X ray of her chest. We left directly and went to Chatham Hospital. When we got there they we aware of her coming and took her directly back and we were there start to finish 20 minutes tops. Chatham Hospital is batting a 1000 in my opinion so far with this process.
Currently Beth is communicating well and can move a little on her own power with a cane. She is still weak on the left side and still has a constant headache. She is no longer nauseous all the time and her breathing has improved. She has had sinus pressure and a sore nose since the second covid test at UNC. She picked up a cough and still has what she describes as weight on her chest since she left UNC. After all of this we still don’t know if it’s a stroke, a seizure or possibly a combination of both. She’s tested negative twice for covid but apparently there is no confidence of accuracy with some negative test results.
My opinion is the worst casualty of the coronavirus is the health care system as it’s a train wreck in motion. UNC Chapel Hill had very few people there. Beth was moved around the hospital and she said some halls were totally empty. Once UNC determined she was covid negative it seemed that they just wanted to get rid of her and send her home. I saw very few people from the outside of both hospitals.
My sister related to me just moments ago they knew two individuals in their area who died trying to get medical help. One with a heart attack and another with another issue both died while waiting due to delays caused by covid restrictions.
My impression is the doctors and nurses are doing all they can but are being held back due to too many covid restrictions being applied to the health care system. I am afraid more people will die.
I’m mad and I don’t know who to be mad at. Its clearly not the nurses and doctors who can’t do their jobs effectively due to a panicked bureaucratic overreaction to a virus with a 99% survival rate.
My advice is just do your best to stay healthy so you don’t have to go to the hospital .