Cancelled surgeries take physical, emotional toll on patients
VANCOUVER -- For 43-year-old Svee Bains, walking takes sheer determination.
"It is a lot of mental focus and I need to make sure I put my leg a certain way so I don’t hurt my hip," she told CTV News.
Eighteen years ago, a car crash left her near death.
"My skull was embedded in my brain so I was in a coma for 10 days. I had two minor strokes on my left side," the Vancouver woman recalled.
At first, doctors said she wouldn’t survive. Then, when she made it out of hospital and into a rehabilitation facility, they said she would never walk.
"Five months later, I took my first steps," she said.
But it’s been a difficult road, and walking is painful.
"Half of my side is partially paralyzed. My motor nerve to my left hand was cut so it doesn’t work at all," Bains explained.
The outpatient clinic she usually goes to for help with pain management has been shut down because of COVID-19. The surgery scheduled to make walking less difficult has been postponed twice for the same reason.
Bains is one of about 14,000 B.C. patients who have had their scheduled surgeries postponed during the pandemic. For her, it’s taken a physical and emotional toll.
“It’s like you see a light at the end of the tunnel and all of a sudden you get hit sideways," she said.
Bains' orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Alastair Younger, said his waitlist has grown by about 50 patients in the past month.
“I have recorded 450 on my waitlist at the moment and obviously each month we don’t operate and do consultation…that will clearly get longer,” the Vancouver doctor explains.
But Younger said delays of non-urgent surgeries are appropriate to protect both patients and medical staff during the pandemic.
"If I brought in a patient just now for an elective operation…and they happened to bring COVID to the hospital, not only would they put at risk myself but the entire team," he said.
He pointed out that surgeons are still doing virtual consults which will help reduce backlog later.
Meanwhile, B.C.’s provincial health officer said they are studying the unintended consequences of delaying surgeries.
“I know in the plan for reopening of scheduled surgeries…that's something being taken into account,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Bains said that while she understands why her surgery didn’t go ahead, it still stings. And it means her hopes for a less painful life have been put on hold again.