Hospital loneliness

By Tedler D. Depaynos, MD

“ He felt as if he was in a wide coffin and was always murmuring his prayers that his Covid test result would be hastened and be negative. ”

It was late evening when the 54 years old patient was brought to the hospital. He had been feeling abdominal pain for the past 3 days but because he was busy with his flower farm he tried tolerating it and not to mind it at all reasoning that it was probably due to the native food they ate. It was after a light dinner when his abdominal pain became severe and he felt his abdomen becoming rigid.
Because the patient was complaining of severe abdominal pain, he was immediately brought into the Emergency Room (ER) by-passing the hospital triage where not only patients but practically all individuals were screened for the possibility of the dreaded Covid virus before entering the hospital. His abdominal pain was diagnosed by the on duty residents to be due to Acute Appendicitis just by the history and physical examination. When the patient was advised that he needed immediate surgery, he requested an MD surgeon they are familiar with and who removed the gallbladder of his older brother a year ago. His requested surgeon, however, expressed his regrets because he was not available during that time. He then referred him to a younger colleague to do the surgery to which the patient agreed.
It was routine that patients undergoing emergency surgery must have a Covid test before entering the operating room (OR) as part of the hospital’s fight against the deadly pandemic. For patients having elective surgery, they should have the tests and the results with them before they are scheduled. In other hospitals, even their surgeons should likewise be tested especially if they are only visiting surgeons and are mainly based in other hospitals. Hence the patient underwent the Covid test. The specimen taken from him was sent to another hospital that has the laboratory facilities. He was not sure if it was shouldered by his Philhealth privilege.
The surgery of the patient was unremarkable. The appendix was inflamed and suppurative but it was removed early before the infection would spread. The abdominal cavity was also cleansed. Actually, this was the main reason why the surgery was an emergency, to prevent the spread of infection and the appearance of complications.
While waiting for the result of the Covid test, the patient was brought to the isolation ward after the surgical procedure where no visitors are allowed and only the doctors and nurses and other hospital health workers could enter. Obviously, if a patient in the isolation ward is with the Covid virus, those entering are exposed and one could easily feel the high risks they are exposed to despite the routine precautions.
The result of the test took some time to be delivered so that the patient was all alone and felt very lonely. He spent most of his time trying to sleep because he would just be staring upwards while awake. He kept on diverting his mind to his flower plantation and the problem of harvesting and selling them especially if he is still in the hospital. A plastic curtain separated the patients from each other with a ceiling. He felt as if he was in a wide coffin and was always murmuring his prayers that his Covid test result would be hastened and be negative. Visits from the nurses and MDs were reminders that he was still alive. He noticed, however, that there were no nursing or medical students and interns visiting him. He could recall that when his brother was confined there were a number assigned to him doing the things instructed by their superiors. No wonder there were times when the hospital staff visiting him seemed to be in a hurry and sometimes appear over worked. The students assisting them are no longer around perhaps due to the Covid problem. He was very thankful, however, to the present high technology for he was able to communicate with his relatives through his old cell phone. He even asked his wife to bring flowers for the hospital staff if ever he would be transferred and she will be allowed to visit him.
From the attending surgeons, his recovery was uneventful and was already in full diet so that he could already be discharged. As a rule however, the result should be around before he could be transferred or discharged. Fortunately, the result was suddenly delivered and it was negative so that he was with wide smiles when he was sent home.
A few days after being discharged, he visited the surgeon he requested whom he never met during his confinement. He was very thankful however to the meticulous care he received from the hospital and for the courtesy bill he got from his attending MDs. He related the severe loneliness he experienced in the hospital where visitors were not allowed to see him. He cannot imagine if the Covid result was positive! He stayed in the hospital for 4 days and if it turned out to be positive, he learned from a hospital staff that he would have been transferred to another hospital that takes care of Covid positive patients. His solitary confinement might be more severe or strict and would be extended perhaps for another 14 days. He could have gone crazy! He also heard that those who would not survive had to be cremated or buried as early as possible to prevent the spread of the virus. He cannot imagine himself to be buried without the performance oftheir native rites.
When he left he understood why his requested surgeon never visited him. He was obviously afraid of the Covid infection especially because of his age despite his alibis. He then promised himself that he would likewise be extra careful together with his family.**

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