As thousands of health care workers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area began fighting the novel coronavirus early this year, Mike Clark was in the midst of his own battle against a tough opponent. Diagnosed with a weak abdominal wall in early 2019, Mike’s primary care doctor had prepared him for the possibility of having to deal with an inguinal hernia in the future. An inguinal hernia can develop later in life when certain muscles weaken or deteriorate due to aging or strenuous physical activity.
Last summer, while the 73-year-old and his wife were making a major move, he became “painfully” aware that he had pushed himself too hard and had likely developed that darn hernia. It was confirmed during his regular physical in January of this year.
Mike was referred to general surgeon Robert Hagood, M.D., FACS, of Texas Health Surgical Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice. He reached out to Dr. Hagood, who advised him that he would first need to wean off of the blood thinner he was taking for a previously diagnosed heart condition before a robotic surgical repair could take place. Then the pandemic hit.
Mike joined with the rest of the world watching the coronavirus take hold. He realized he would have to wait for word from his doctor as to the next step.
As Texas began to reopen, Mike received the call he had been patiently awaiting from Dr. Hagood’s office. He could finally have the surgery he needed to repair his hernia.
“Considering the COVID-19 protocols and restrictions as to the number of patients a hospital could serve, I thought there would be no better or safer time to have the surgery—so I didn’t hesitate,” Mike says. “I had been through previous knee and hip replacement surgeries as well as an ablation procedure for my heart condition. I was a pro at the surgery thing, and was ready to move past having to worry about how I picked things up.”
His first experience with the new health care reality came the day of his pre-admission appointment at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Mike was greeted at the entrance to the hospital by several clinicians who provided him with a face mask, took his temperature and had him complete a questionnaire regarding any recent travel and potential symptoms of COVID-19.
“They then directed me to the nurses’ station, where a very friendly nurse administered the test. Through my watery eyes, I jokingly asked her if she had placed the swab into my brain. She laughed and said that when a patient’s eyes water, they know they have properly administered the test. She then informed me that I would only be contacted if the results were positive for the virus. Everyone I spoke with or dealt with that day was extremely polite, caring and taking every possible action to ensure my safety,” he recalls.
On the day of his surgery, Mike’s wife was able to accompany him. But because he had to be there quite early, she dropped him off and ran several errands before returning to the hospital. Upon her arrival, she had her temperature checked, received a face mask and was asked a few questions. She was then taken to Mike’s room to remain until he returned from surgery and recovery. “The staff treated her extremely well and kept her fully informed of my status,” he adds.
Mike was discharged the same day without delay, and says he is feeling much better now. No more having to move with care, he and his wife are ready to more fully explore their new surroundings (once the pandemic sufficiently subsides). He is extremely appreciative of the care he received while at Texas Health Dallas.
“I have been in other hospitals, and have had some fine experiences, but everyone from the administrators to the nurses, aides and doctors were so caring and compassionate at Texas Health,” Mike beams. “The obvious concern for my personal safety and comfort was simply remarkable, equal to or better than a five-star resort. I was never concerned about my welfare or my wife’s. Even in the surgical waiting area, the nurses were very supportive. In the recovery area, the beds were placed at least six feet apart—which was reassuring.”
Mike offers some advice for others who may be considering an elective procedure during this trying time. “I would encourage anyone who needs elective surgery to do it now. There are not as many people at the hospital and medical people know how to keep us safe, doctors and nurses have been doing this for a long time. What would you rather do, go to a shopping mall with all the risk of getting exposed, or go to a medical facility that knows how to protect you?”