Vexed, perplexed on surgery waiting list

COVID struck despite collective effort to protect woman before scheduled procedure

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A staggering number of backlogged surgeries overloading Manitoba’s health-care system has led some patients to sacrifice time with loved ones and forgo milestone celebrations to minimize the risk of a positive COVID-19 test delaying their long-awaited time on the operating table.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/04/2022 (219 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A staggering number of backlogged surgeries overloading Manitoba’s health-care system has led some patients to sacrifice time with loved ones and forgo milestone celebrations to minimize the risk of a positive COVID-19 test delaying their long-awaited time on the operating table.

In the weeks leading up to 22-year-old Maddy Nowosad’s parathyroid-gland surgery, the people close to her rallied to protect her from the virus after the province lifted all of its pandemic public-health measures.

Nowosad and her partner, Emilie Rafnson, 26, continued to wear masks, didn’t see friends and avoided grocery stores. Both of their families agreed to continue wearing masks in public and limited their contacts, skipping birthday parties and other get-togethers.

Maddy Nowosad, 22, and her family feel lucky that her surgery was delayed by only two weeks after a surprising positive COVID test result. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press)

Nowosad believed the collective effort had paid off, but she was awoken at 1 a.m. on April 6 — the day of her scheduled procedure — by three calls from the surgeon’s office notifying her she had tested positive.

“It was pretty frustrating; I was quite sad,” Nowosad said. “Throughout the entire pandemic we managed to avoid it.”

Nowosad, an intern for the Arctic Research Foundation, took two PCR tests at Health Sciences Centre — one 11 days before the surgery date and another on April 5.

“I had no symptoms,” she said. “I had no idea.”

Though she was feeling more tired than usual, she wrote it off as fatigue — a common symptom of primary hypothyroidism, the condition she lives with.

Nowosad, who has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, believes she was infected while shopping for books to read during her recovery.

“It was our anniversary, so we decided to go (to the bookstore) on a weekday during the day when it was probably going to be quiet,” Rafnson said. “That’s the only thing we could think of. Both of our families tested negative. I didn’t test positive.”

Nowosad, who developed agonizing kidney stones because of her condition, had been waiting several months for the surgery. Fortunately, the delay was just two more weeks; she underwent the procedure Wednesday after being designated as “recovered” from the virus.

“A lot of other people definitely have it worse than me,” she said, adding her recovery is going well.

“I feel so horrible for people who really, really need treatment and haven’t been able to because of COVID and the poor management of the pandemic by the government.”

HSC staff seemed overwhelmed, she said.

“Every conversation that I would hear around me was about how overworked people were and how exhausted they were,” she said.

As of March 22, the surgery and diagnostic procedure backlog in the province was 167,877, according to physician-advocacy organization Doctors Manitoba.

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

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