Published on July 13, 2020
Coronavirus No-Visitors Policy Is Hard for Cancer Patients and Family
When I was five years old, I had minor hernia surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. Back then, patients were hospitalized for a few days to heal. My parents were by my side the entire time and even brought me chocolate milkshakes — my favorite!
Flash forward to today: the sad collateral damage of the coronavirus pandemic is a ‘no visitors’ policy at many hospitals in the United States. While I understand the reason — healthcare providers are trying their best to limit virus risk to themselves and others — it does leave a hole in the hearts of patients and their friends and family who long for that personal connection.
Although this policy was implemented because of the coronavirus pandemic, it isn’t limited to COVID-19 patients. It’s for all conditions and even outpatient tests and procedures.
Missing My Care Partner
My wife, Esther, usually accompanies me to my monthly immunoglobulin (IVIG) infusions. Unfortunately, under this new policy, she can no longer do so. I also recently had a minor Mohs dermatologic procedure. Again, she couldn’t join me.
Fortunately, I can communicate with Esther via text and video calls while I’m at my appointments, and the infusions are something I’ve done many times before. But what about patients who are sick? In pain? Suffering? Who holds their hand? Who reassures them? And as busy as doctors and nurses are during their shifts, how can family and friends know the status of their loved ones?
This is a tough time on so many levels!
Facing Cancer Treatment Alone
I am worried about a friend who may have to be hospitalized for a week. I also think about the many patients served by Patient Power who are hospitalized for extended periods. People undergoing stem cell transplants for myeloma or myelofibrosis. People being hospitalized for approved or experimental CAR T-cell therapies to treat blood cancers like chronic lymphocytic leukemia, multiple myeloma or lymphoma.
I care, and I worry. While I understand the importance of the ‘no visitors’ policy, I hope the situation will change before long. Being hospitalized is difficult enough without having to go it alone.
We can all do our part by wearing masks, washing our hands and keeping our distance from one another. In the meantime, let’s continue to think of digital ways to connect through hospital and clinic walls in a safe and marginally satisfying way. It’s not ideal, but it’s the best we can do for now.
I welcome your thoughts and stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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