My 82 year old Mother-in-law had a medical emergency during week 2 of COVID-19. A trip to Emergency at Mississauga’s Credit Valley hospital had us worried about her, fearful of being near people who had contracted the Coronavirus, and exposing her and us to the disease.
We read the headlines (probably too much) and watch the daily press conferences with our Federal and Ontario leaders. We hear that our healthcare system is under threat as the numbers continue to grow. Self-isolation, physical distancing and the cancellation of surgical procedures, even non-elective, are leaving Canadians with existing medical conditions and scheduled surgeries worried and seriously concerned about the new coronavirus and their own health.
The pressing question is what do you do now if you have a medical emergency, like a stroke or heart attack, during this crisis?
The answer is that if it is critical, call 911 immediately! Hospitals are currently able to deal with critical situations. Critical means that the person is showing emergency signs and symptoms like unresponsiveness, chest pain, difficulty breathing, stroke-like symptoms, life-threatening bleeding, just to name a few. Do not delay and seek emergency medical attention right away. Do not let the fear of an overwhelmed healthcare system and contracting the virus hold you back.
On the other hand, do not call 911 and tie up the lines for non-emergencies or because you think you or someone you know has the virus. Do not call 911 to report people who are not practising physical distancing. 911 is for emergencies only.
Getting back to our experience this week with my MIL, we were highly impressed with the staff at Credit Valley Emergency despite the chaos created by COVID 19. Expecting overwhelmed and impatient frontline workers, we found that they were friendly, compassionate and professional. It wasn’t chaotic at all and triage was well managed. The hospital separates suspected COVID-19 patients and has a dedicated area within the hospital to assess and triage people who exhibit symptoms like fever, difficulty breathing and coughing. By separating staff and patients, we felt that the risk to us and my MIL of contracting the virus was substantially decreased.
The healthcare workers were covered from head to toe in personal protective equipment. We are hearing news reports daily that healthcare workers don’t have enough PPE to protect themselves. There is definitely a shortage of PPE. For their sake and ours, we need to protect them by staying home, away from other people, to prevent the spread of the virus in the community. We also need to make sure that our healthcare providers always have the right PPE available at all times. We need them to stay healthy.
Coronavirus is expected to overwhelm the Canadian healthcare system in the coming weeks, and the Ontario government has implemented many strategies in an effort to flatten the curve such to avoid a doomsday situation where the healthcare system can’t meet needs. Overall, people are heeding the requests to stay home, but occasionally you do see people who are breaking the rules, causing a risk to the entire community.
I wanted to give a shout out to my friend and neighbour Marg, a Respiratory Therapist who works on the frontlines at hospitals in Oakville and Toronto. She has posted on Facebook that staff like herself are working with a shortage of masks, gowns, face coverings and PPE in general. Headlines also confirm this as fact. Only in the hospital does she breach physical distancing requirements because she works closely with her colleagues to treat very vulnerable patients, and at times without PPE. When Marg comes home from work she quarantines herself in the basement to protect her family. Both Marg’s husband and her 7 year old daughter are type one diabetics. Coronavirus has a higher mortality rate for the elderly or people with chronic conditions like diabetes.
Hearing stories like Marg’s is heart wrenching and a reminder to us all to continue to practise physical distancing. It’s a sacrifice but we have to do it. We have to work together to stop the spread and to protect ourselves and our healthcare workers. This is how we can all stay safe. If you do not have an emergency, do not call 911 and do not go to Emergency. Instead call your doctor’s office as many visits can now be done online or by phone.
What can you do to stay healthy?
Just like the common cold and the flu, practise good hygiene.
- Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap, or use hand sanitizer if proper hand washing facilities are not available.
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Disinfect common surfaces like toys, doorknobs, phones, remote controls and keyboards, frequently.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- If you are going to use gloves, all the same rules above apply.
- Remove gloves safely so as not to touch any exposed skin.
Learn how to safely remove gloves by watching this video. Remember to dispose of them properly in the garbage. Do no leave them in shopping carts or parking lots or flower pots for someone else to pick them up. We have posted a video on our Facebook page about How to remove gloves safely
If you become sick:
If you are not feeling well:
- Stay home!!
- Cover your mouth using your elbow or sleeve, not your hand, when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid close contact with people especially those with compromised immune systems, the very young or the elderly
- Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, or use a full pump of hand sanitizer and rub your hands until they are dry
- Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest
- If you experience symptoms, like trouble breathing, contact your healthcare provider
- Stay home and quarantine yourself!
- If you have a fever, coughing, or difficulty breathing or have travelled in the last 14 days, follow the Public Health advice to isolate yourself at home and call your doctor.
- If you need to see your doctor, call ahead.
There are many myths and lots misinformation about COVID-19. Monitor the situation through reliable news outlets, avoid social media, and stay current with information from reliable sources. For up-to-date information, visit Public Health Agency of Canada, Be Prepared, stay healthy, and know what to do if you get sick.