Avoiding medical care because of fears of contracting
COVID-19 could mean the diff erence between life and
For major medical issues such as heart attack and stroke,
the benefi ts of quickly getting care are much, much higher, said
Dr. B.J. Hicks, OhioHealth vascular neurologist and co-director
of the Comprehensive Stroke Program at Riverside Methodist
Hospital, Columbus, Ohio.
“Make sure you seek treatment that will have you walk out
rather than waiting too long so they have to roll you out,” Hicks
Months into the pandemic, some people are still delaying
treatment for serious illnesses or emergencies, but the hospitals
are pretty much back to normal with added protections, said
Dr. Kevin Hewitt, chairman of emergency medicine for the
Emergency and Trauma Center, Hackensack University Medical
Center in New Jersey.
“Hospitals are taking a lot of precautions,” he said. Patients and
accompanying family members (if they are even allowed inside a
medical facility) are screened for COVID-19 by temperature and
answering medical questionnaires. Appointments are staggered.
Plus, everyone is wearing a mask.
“We now know how important masks are. We are learning
so much more about masks not just about spreading the virus
but also how they protect from acquiring the virus,” Hicks
The likelihood of infection at a hospital or medical center is
low because very important safety protocols have been adopted,
Hicks said.
“We have not seen medical mismanagement. These sorts of
emergencies have not been sidetracked by hospital-acquired
COVID-19,” he said.
Get care as quickly as possible. People who may be
experiencing symptoms of heart attack or stroke do not have the
time to debate about being cautious.
“It’s critical to seek treatment,” Hicks said. A delay “may lead
to irreparable harm,” he said.
Patients who ignore the signs of major illness leave medical
professionals with fewer options.
“People are getting to the hospital later than we like, and the
opportunity to reverse, erase the stroke, to hamper or dampen it
is cut mercilessly short because of the loss of time,” Hicks said.
During a heart attack, the heart muscle dies when the blood
fl ow is restricted for too long.
“In the event that the heart attack puts you into cardiac arrest,
there’s a small window of time that medical professionals can get
your heart beating again.” Hewitt said.
As fl u season arrives, the consequences of delayed action will
be seen.
“When it comes to the winter months we tend to see an uptick
in overall hospitalized patients because it’s fl u season, and with
fl u season comes a lot of other medical illnesses that require
hospitalizations,” Hicks said. “It would be potentially disastrous if
on top of what we classically see for patients in the winter months
or during the fl u season that we also have patients that are going
to neglect emergency care, because oftentimes these patients are
critical if they come down with these kind of conditions, including
COVID-19 but also the garden variety medical emergencies that
we take care of whether or not they have a seasonal component.”
Every minute matters. If you think you are having a heart
attack or stroke, call 911.