‘I can’t do anything about it’: Spokane woman frustrated over delayed surgery

SPOKANE, Wash. — COVID-19 is pushing hospitals beyond capacity, forcing them to pause non-emergency surgeries and procedures. People in Spokane are feeling the ripple effects.

Colleen Gardner needs gallbladder surgery. She started having stomach pain in mid-July and wakes up feeling nauseous every day.

“Being a cancer survivor the first thing you think of every time something’s not right is the c-word comes into play,” she said.

Thankfully, it is not cancer. Doctors did schedule a surgery, but it got delayed for medical reasons. They rescheduled it for Sept. 14 at Holy Family.

“When I saw how bad it [COVID] was getting here, I told my husband I said I’m not getting in on the 14,” Gardner said.

It did not happen. The surgery was delayed, again.

“Then they called back and said we’re gonna have to postpone it until today,” Gardner said. “Then they called me last Friday and said it’s being postponed until October 11.”

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients, many of which are not vaccinated, are causing hospitals like Sacred Heart and Deaconess to pause non-emergency surgeries.

“I am more frustrated and heartsick about the reason rather than the reason it’s being pushed out,” Gardner said. “We could be on the downturn here and we could’ve saved thousands of lives.”

Providence says the delay in surgeries is also due to staffing shortages. Gardner said she knows there is nothing she can do about the situation, but the reality does take a toll.

“I’m not going to say I got it easy, but I got it a whole heck of a lot easier than a lot of other people,” Gardner said holding back tears. “That’s what I try to tell myself is I’m one of the lucky ones.”

Gardner says her medical issue is not life-threatening, though she tries to not let herself think about the surgery delay. She is looking ahead, hoping her surgery, which is scheduled one day before her 76 birthday, actually happens.

“I’m telling myself every day that goes by is ok, that’s another day I haven’t gotten a phone call yet,” she said.

She also has a message for people.

“Get vaccinated. End of story. Period,” Gardner said.

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