He Avoided the Hospital Because of COVID-19 and Lived to Tell About It

June 10, 2020

Tom and Laurie James, Blog - Life after Heart Surgery, Temecula Valley Hospital

For over a month, Tom James was having difficulty breathing and felt a squeezing on his heart. “I couldn’t even make it up the stairs, I’d stop halfway up,” says James. “But I wasn’t going anywhere, let alone a hospital, during the COVID-19 quarantine.” As his pain worsened, his wife of 45 years, Laurie, worried every day about him because of his history of heart complications. She knew he would need to go to the hospital for a heart procedure.

The couple, both over 65, did everything they could to be safe from COVID-19. They stayed in the house for over two months. They had their groceries delivered. They visited with family, including their three sons and their families, but stayed outside and 6 feet away from one another.

Additional Safety Protocols

It took a call from Tom’s cardiologist, Jeffery Chung, MD, to convince him to report for a heart procedure at Temecula Valley Hospital. Dr. Chung reassured Tom that the hospital was safe and has implemented additional safety protocols during COVID-19.

Tom finally agreed and underwent his emergency surgery. He couldn’t believe how safe the hospital was when he arrived. It was clean, the team was confident and professional, and it was nothing like what he had imagined during a pandemic. “The team was amazing, everything was absolutely wonderful,” says Tom. “We pulled up to the hospital, I went in after they checked my temperature and we followed the safety protocols, including no visitation at this time within the hospital.” Cardiologist Steve Jin, MD, cleared the blockage, after which Tom called his wife. “I called Laurie once I was in recovery and told her the surgery gave me a new life,” he says.

Tom is back at home and feeling great with a new perspective on life. He hopes his story can help others to not be afraid to go in and get the treatment they need, and to trust the healthcare professionals. “I am so glad I finally went into Temecula Valley Hospital,” he says. “Before my surgery, I was thinking every day was my last. Temecula Valley Hospital saved my life!” Tom has come a long way from not being able to make it up the stairs. “I am playing out in the pool now, it is a miracle!”

Seek Prompt Care for Life-Threatening Conditions

Darlene Wetton, Temecula Valley Hospital’s CEO, knows there is a big misconception in the region about quarantine procedures. “At this time, when home isolation is often encouraged, we want to remind the community that this is not the same as medical isolation. Unfortunately, we have begun to see patients that have waited too long to come to the Emergency Department for their life-threatening conditions, due to an understandable fear of being exposed to COVID-19,” she says. “We would like to stress to the community that prolonged medical isolation for concerning symptoms may have detrimental effects on your health and we encourage you to seek immediate medical care in these situations.”