Clinicians work on intubating a COVID-19 patient in the ICU at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital in Lake Charles, Louisiana on August 10, 2021.

A Tennessee woman’s life-saving surgery was pushed back because the hospital is so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
“It’s terrifying to experience a medical emergency during a pandemic,” she wrote in a Washington Post guest essay.
Tennessee is facing a surge in new cases, and has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, CDC data shows.

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A Tennessee woman’s life-saving surgery was pushed back because hospitals are so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients right now.

Nashville-based writer Betsy Phillips chronicled her journey, which she called an eight-month medical mystery, in a guest essay in the Washington Post.

“It’s terrifying to experience a medical emergency during a pandemic,” she said.

In January, Phillips’ doctors discovered a lump on the front of her throat hindered her breathing. She was finally scheduled to have that lump removed in September to restore her normal breathing.

Instead, a week before her scheduled surgery, her doctors called to cancel because the hospital was so overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, even after being told due to the seriousness of her condition, she would be among the last surgeries bumped off the schedule for this reason.

“I’m scared. I’m vaccinated, but a breakthrough case would be dangerous for me,” she said. “I’m bone-deep disappointed. But mostly, I am angry. I did everything I was asked to do to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19. I wanted to do my part to end this crisis. Now, I wonder: Are there any circumstances under which my neighbors would do the same to keep me safe?”

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Phillips said she was frustrated that her neighbors weren’t getting vaccinated, leading to a new surge in hospitalizations as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads – and that those people were getting priority for treatment.

“I’m still so very angry that people who put their feelings before others’ well-being get to be first in the hospitals,” she wrote.

Tennessee – which has one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates with just 43% fully vaccinated – is currently facing a new wave of new cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19, according to CDC data.

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