Stairs suddenly became an overwhelming obstacle for Deborah Cohen, a Westchester County woman who said she wouldn’t be able to breathe after walking even a few steps.
“I was so dizzy, my head was so heavy and this whole time my legs felt like lead,” Cohen said.
She needed to go see a doctor – but refused to go.
“I was afraid. I was afraid to go to the hospital – I didn’t want to get COVID. I didn’t want to go to the hospital,” she said.
Cohen is far from alone, part of a concerning trend of people avoiding going to hospital out of fear of catching the coronavirus, even though medical attention may be necessary. The number of non-COVID patients admitted to hospitals is down between 20-40 percent.
Dr. Rafael Torres is the director of emergency medicine at White Plains Hospital, and he's working to ease those fears.
“I completely understand everyone’s fear and anxiety,” Torres said. “We put processes in place to make sure everyone has the maximum level of safety and protection.”
Every patient who comes to the emergency department at Torres’ hospital starts off in a tent outside, where they are sorted into one of two categories: those who may be showing a COVID-like illness, and those who are not.
All patients are given masks, doctors and nurses all wear PPEs, crews are cleaning more – the hospital even has a robot on staff, which Torres said uses UV light to sanitize a room “better than any of us can.”
The hospital has also started a social media campaign encouraging people not to dismiss signs of heart attacks and stroke, such as chest pain, trouble speaking, dizziness, unable to talk or swallow properly, according to Dr. Torres.
Thankfully, Cohen did finally relent and an ambulance rushed her to the hospital where she had blood tests, chest X-rays and an EKG done. She learned it was not a heart attack or stroke, but rather anemia.
“I realized my symptoms are more important than my fear,” Cohen said. “It was best thing I could have done.”
She is now thanking the doctors and nurses who took care of her – in addition to all the countless number of coronavirus patients coming into the ER.
“They are fantastic, they save lives,” Cohen said through tears. “They just give you such peace of mind.”