COVID-19 Beyond the Numbers: Crowded hospitals affect placement of all patients

Coronavirus

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — More than 3,200 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized in South Dakota since the start of the pandemic.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the nation could hit historic highs in daily hospitalizations this week.

On Monday, 566 people were in the hospital just with COVID-19, according to the South Dakota Department of Health.

In this edition of “COVID-19 Beyond the Numbers,” we look into what it really means when hospitals are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients for other patients needing a high level of care.

Mike and Caryn Barry of Northwest Iowa were married for 43 years when Mike was diagnosed in January with esophageal and stomach cancer.

“We decided to come up here to Sanford and the doctor up here gave us a lot of hope that he would have a few good years–that they could not cure it, but they could control it,” Caryn Barry said.

Mike Barry rings the bell after completing cancer treatments

However, Mike had an irregular heartbeat and the cancer treatments caused fluid to build up around his heart. On Oct. 14, Caryn took him to the closest emergency room in Orange City because he was having trouble breathing.

“That he needed to be admitted, but they couldn’t move him into Sanford at that time. They didn’t think they could find a room for him, so they admitted him to Orange City, which was full too. So he had to be admitted to the maternity ward, which was fine with me,” Caryn said.

Mike got worse overnight and the next day was airlifted to Sanford Health in Sioux Falls.

“He did have to spend four hours in ER because they did not have a room for him,” Caryn said.

Caryn says the care Mike received at Sanford was excellent, but once he was stable again he was transferred out to Cherokee, Iowa.

“It is about identifying who needs what where and just that time communication 24/7 to determine where to best care for these folks,” Dr. Mike Wilde of Sanford Health said.

“I wish they could have kept him in Sanford. They did not rush him out, but I know they needed the rooms and they thought he could handle the swing bed.It may have given him a little more time,” Caryn siad.

A week later, Mike was back at Sanford in Sioux Falls, where he died the next day.

“We had a lot of plans. I am retiring at the end of the school year and we had al lot of things planned. But we had 43 good years too,” Caryn said.

Mike’s family is calling on everyone to take COVID-19 seriously because as patient numbers rise, it impacts others like Mike who need care.

“The hospitals are full and oh I keep hearing they’re at 20 percent capacity is available. And that didn’t seem to be true for us,” Caryn said.

“We’re working hard caring for all folks, with all needs and we certainly don’t want to have people going through difficult circumstances, but it happens. And if we can really focus on the things to lower the odds of this infection,” Dr. Wilde said.

“It’s frustrating. I think at least part of this could have been prevented by taking some simple precautions,” daughter Megan Henneberg said.

Of course those precautions are social distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask to keep from catching COVID-19 in the first place, or passing it on to others. The Barry family wants to stress they have no complaints about the care, they just wish that regional medical centers with the specialists Mike needed were not so busy.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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