Ever since I had weight loss surgery, I have had occasional stomach acid issues. Last week, the day before Labor Day, I was ill most of the day and antacids did not help. When I got up the next morning, the back of my head hurt and my neck hurt. I thought I had slept wrong. My wife made an appointment at the Seventh-day Adventist Clinic and I went in early to get it checked.

After getting an EKG, which looked fine, Dr. David suggested I go to the hospital for further tests. I took his advice and went to the Guam Regional Medical City emergency room. It was very busy at the ER, much like a busy Friday night. There were ill people everywhere. I spoke to the doctor and I really wanted to put off waiting in the busy ER. There were very sick people there and I thought I could just come back the next day. The doctor advised against it and I always take medical advice. After the tests came back, the doctor told me I had had a heart attack and needed to be admitted. In the end, I spent three days at the hospital last week until I could get fully cleared. I wrote my column last week from the emergency room bed and life goes on.

I am being open about this medical episode because I want everyone to know that our hospitals and our health care systems are under extreme stress right now. These are not Chicken Little, “The sky is falling,” worries, we have very serious capacity issues right now. We are not the U.S. mainland with the luxury of major highways connecting us to other places.

I had two very good ER nurses at GRMC, Jessa and Hiliary. Also, my doctor, once I was admitted, was Dr. Edison Manaloto. I was very pleased with the high quality of care I received, but I could see how stressed our systems are under COVID-19 conditions.

My last major heart attack was in May 2013. This year was minor in comparison. Part of my problem is that due to COVID-19 I have not seen my off island cardiologist for two years. I think that many folks may not be watching basic health care concerns due to COVID-19 and put off getting medical help.

Including three stepsisters, I have seven sisters and no brothers. Three of my four biological sisters became nurses. All of them are bossy. My oldest sister, Cindy, was a tough-as-nails ER cardiac nurse. The night before Thanksgiving in 2014, Cindy was up all night cooking for her sons’ families. She decided to take a shower and slipped. Her husband wanted to take her to the ER but she decided to take a nap. She passed away in her sleep from a ruptured spleen. Cindy was stubborn and worried more about caring for others than caring for herself. In my health services administration classes, I tell all of my young nursing students this story.

Ron McNinch teaches at the University of Guam School of Business and Public Administration.

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