Surgery during COVID-19 By Adama Dyoniziak, Executive Director, Champions for Health

Dr adam fierer

“I was so worried and anxious about getting COVID and about the surgery.” These thoughts were running through Noel M.’s mind constantly. Noel was referred to Champions for Health Project Access for general surgery to treat his right inguinal hernia. His surgery had to be rescheduled due to COVID-19 – surgery centers and hospitals were not accepting elective surgery in the early months of the pandemic.
Noel suffered from his hernia condition for almost two years and it was affecting his daily life. He would get sent home from his job at the car wash: “I was in unimaginable pain.” He was unable to run, go to the gym, or go hiking or bicycling with his son Alan and partner Martina. Then as the surgery date neared, Noel expressed concerns about having the surgery with everything that was going on with COVID-19. Evelyn Penaloza, Project Access Care Manager, reassured Noel that the hospital and staff were taking all the necessary precautions. “We talked over the phone every day for a week up until his surgery. Noel really needed someone to talk to because he felt like his family would make fun of him for being scared,” Evelyn shared with GB Magazine.
Project Access staff participated in a training on Managing Anxiety during COVID-19 for patients and providers. Focusing on the present and using grounding techniques helped Noel. Evelyn continued, “I told Noel we had to take it one step at a time, and he could call me whenever he needed help with anything. Acknowledging how he was feeling and telling him it was normal for him to feel worried and anxious helped him. He used breathing techniques and even started doing some yoga. He was worried about being exposed to COVID-19 and complications that could occur from surgery.” His physician, Dr. Adam Fierer and his staff were very helpful in answering all his questions and Noel felt better prepared for surgery. Dr Fierer added, “I want the patient experience to be everything they could hope for. We make sure that patients feel welcome and are provided all the information they need to feel comfortable with their upcoming surgery.”
Noel has recovered and enthusiastically shared, “I’d like to thank Project Access, Dr. Fierer and his staff for helping with my surgery. It has changed my life. I am very happy and grateful.” Dr. Fierer has been a Project Access volunteer for many years, “It is incredibly satisfying to change somebody’s life for the better.”
During this time of crisis, your support of Champions for Health Project Access patients like Noel is more important than ever. Our patients are uninsured and very poor San Diegans who receive free specialty healthcare and surgeries from generous physicians and surgery centers. Join your heart to ours: become a part of our annual campaign to cover the costs of intensive care management, medicines, diagnostic tests, transportation and medical interpreting with a gift or a recurring monthly donation, both of which are tax deductible.

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Esteban Villanueva