POINT OF VIEW — What it was like to be in hospital during the pandemic
Things went from 0 to 100, real quick
Picture this: You’re a teenager going about your life.
Everything seems normal, but within hours, your health goes from good to bad to worse.
This was the reality for 16-year-old Ethan Berkeley-Garcia from Brampton, Ont., in April.
Continue reading to see what it was like to be a pediatric patient at a hospital during the coronavirus pandemic.
Like most teens, my sleep habits have been terrible since schools were shut down, but the morning of April 18 was different.
I woke up early with chills, a fever, heavy nausea and stabbing pain in my lower abdominal area.
I freaked out, to say the least, considering I was completely fine only hours prior.
Of course, the first terrible thought that came to mind was, “Oh no. I have it. I have COVID-19.”
Trying to remain somewhat calm, I took two ibuprofen and did what any scared person would do — I read the symptoms of COVID-19 online.
It didn’t sound like I had it. Relieved, I went back back to sleep.
‘Jokes and laughs would soon turn to tears’
When I woke up, almost all symptoms had pretty much vanished except for some minor pain in my lower abdominal area.
Not fazed, I went about my day and even cracked jokes to my mom about how silly it was I thought I had COVID, especially since I’d been self-isolating for about a month at that point.
These jokes and laughs would soon turn to tears, as in the afternoon, my symptoms were back, and they were even worse than before.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the nearest walk-in clinics were closed early.
Needing relief, I went to my local pharmacy, all while remembering to remain two metres apart.
There was a long line of people physically distancing at the pharmacy so I had to wait for what felt like an eternity. (Submitted by Ethan Berkeley-Garcia)
The pharmacist said my pain sounded like a digestive issue.
With that information, we grabbed the recommended medicine and headed home.
That night, the pain became way more unbearable.
I hit my breaking point.
I could no longer endure the pain and the nausea was really bad.
Panicking a little, I rushed downstairs and said to my mom, “I don’t care what you’re doing right now, drop it. We need to go to the hospital now.”
Thankfully the hospital closest to me is only about a 10-minute drive, but let me tell you, I felt every single pothole and bump we went over.
Welcome to the hospital
By the time we got to the hospital, I was in tears.
We sanitized our hands and were screened for COVID-19. They checked me in and gave us masks.
After enduring the admission process, I was told my mom and I would have to part ways because of new COVID-19 regulations.
My mom questioned the nurses since I’m only 16.
It’s a weird age because I’m legally allowed to make my own decisions.
Not so urgent, urgent care
The nurse escorted me to urgent care, where I sat in a shoebox-shaped room with a curtain through the middle, dividing me and another patient.
After about 30 long minutes, a doctor came to take my blood, vitals and a urine sample for testing.
My favourite part of this entire evaluation that makes me laugh even now went like this:
Unfortunately, being a 16-year-old by yourself at the hospital makes you feel somewhat less heard.
It felt like an eternity had passed since I had asked for painkillers and across from me I could see all the nurses sitting in their room conversing.
I kept having these two conflicting thoughts:
I couldn’t wait.
I panicked, as I couldn’t find a nurse.
No nurse? In urgent care? How could that be?
My pain was only getting worse. Finally, a nurse walked by and I got his attention.
I then watched him go into the room where they kept the medication, find the one that was written for me on my chart and then he gave it to me.
It took about five minutes.
This all felt so confusing. Why the long wait for pain medication? Couldn’t I have been helped sooner?
COVID or NO-VID?
Next, I was taken by wheelchair to get an ultrasound.
I was grateful for the wheelchair because at this point, the pain was so bad I wasn’t able to walk.
After some more tests, the doctor assured me that I didn’t have COVID but that I DID have appendicitis.
Appendicitis is when your appendix becomes inflamed, causing the symptoms I was having.
The doctor explained that usually your appendix is the size of your pinky but mine was just a little bigger than my thumb.
I needed to meet a surgeon and couldn’t eat until that happened — the next morning.
I was so hungry though, because I hadn’t eaten anything in about 19 hours. Just in case I had to have surgery, you need an empty stomach.
A room to myself
The hospital was a ghost town from the time I arrived, kind of like a post-apocalyptic scene from a movie.
A porter took me to the pediatrics unit, where I got a room by myself, which was thanks to their physical distancing efforts.
The next morning I met with the surgeon.
She explained that usually I would have gone straight into surgery, but because of COVID-19, they were trying to avoid the operating room as much as possible.
Honestly, the terrible thought that ran through my head was, “Is everything that can be done happening despite this pandemic?”
It felt as if my safety was being valued less just for the smallest possibility of getting COVID-19.
It may sound bad but it’s truly how I felt in the moment.
In the end, I didn’t need to have surgery, and was given antibiotics instead.
Thankfully, the antibiotics worked, but wow, what a time.
I was in the hospital for only 4 1/2 days, but it felt like eternity.
My laptop and cellphone were total lifelines for me.
I even got a care package from the hospital filled with books, activities and things to keep me occupied as I waited.
I am super grateful for the treatment and help I received in the time of need, but because of COVID, things did not go smoothly.
The most difficult thing during this process was the lack of communication between me and the staff.
Not having my mom there with me the whole time made it all more challenging.
It felt like the nurses, doctors, security and other staff were all on different pages.
The care package came courtesy of the Starlight Foundation and Toys "R" Us, and helped keep me busy and my mind elsewhere. (Submitted by Ethan Berkeley-Garcia)
I do want to thank all the front-line workers for their continuous efforts during these difficult times, which they have never had to face.
Finally, I want to quote Pam from The Office who stated in one episode: “Pobody’s nerfect.”
In other words, nobody’s perfect.
These are challenging times and we are ALL learning to cope, even the superheroes
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: (Submitted by Ethan Berkeley-Garcia, design Philip Street/CBC)