Letter: Don't wait. We're here for you
It woke her up from sleep. The pressure in her chest felt like heartburn, but as she got up to walk to the bathroom for her antacid, it worsened. She felt short of breath. “It’s just indigestion,” she thought. “I am sure it will go away.” She couldn’t fall back asleep. She knew something wasn’t right but was afraid it was too risky to go to the emergency room. As she stayed at home, her legs swelled, and her breathing worsened. When she came to the hospital, she learned it was a heart attack and now heart failure.
I haven’t cared for this patient, but I have taken care of several like her who have experienced complications related to delaying care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I read stories of New Yorkers who passed away in their homes, too scared to get care or too late to make a difference. Did they have someone they could reach out to? Did they feel that health care providers would be available to them? Did they try to contact them and not hear back? In our community, local health care workers are here and ready to serve our patients.
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As physicians and advanced practice providers, we are working diligently to reach out to our patients. One method is through telemedicine. We can ensure that needed medications and labs are ordered. We are able to ask patients to find the pill bottles in their cupboards and make sure that our lists match. Most importantly, we can determine through these virtual visits if a patient needs to come into the clinic to be seen in person.
There are times with telemedicine that we may miss out on the non-verbal communication or critical examination findings that occur with in-person interaction. We need to bring some patients into clinic to provide the best care. Thankfully, we can do this safely, while minimizing exposure to COVID-19.
The relationship between patient and primary care provider, one of open communication, has never been more important. Patients must reach out to us for help, and we must reach out to our patients. If we continue to delay care, it will be difficult to adequately address both current and future health care needs as this pandemic passes.
Please, do not stay at home with crushing chest pain or sudden onset shortness of breath. Call 911. When your blood sugar spikes because of increased stress or that nagging abdominal pain seems to be getting worse, send us a message or give us a call. Keep your regular check-up with your physician virtually. When you are feeling anxiety because you haven’t been able to see your grandchildren, reach out. When you start having a cough and fever, don’t wait until you are short of breath to get tested for COVID-19. We will continue working safely and diligently to meet your healthcare needs both at home and in the clinic.
So, please, don’t wait.
Nichols is an internal medicine physician practicing in Fargo-Moorhead.