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Storm Adds Stress To Medical Emergencies

Amy Radil
01/19/2012

Snow and ice have been making travel complicated in the Puget Sound region since last Sunday. That's added to the stress people face when they have medical emergencies. Patients and their families say they have had trouble getting to area hospitals, and may not be able to visit their relatives once they're admitted. But they are full of praise for the medical workers braving the storms. KUOW's Amy Radil reports.

TRANSCRIPT

For children and families at home, the snow this week has made for an unexpected holiday. But for patients dealing with health problems or medical emergencies, the storms have only added to their stress. Jane Aslanian lives with her long–time partner Frank Seabeck in Bellevue. On Sunday night, he fell. Aslanian says the medics couldn't drive to their house.

Aslanian: "I live a mile from Bellevue Square, but I live up hills and down hills and they couldn't get their rig down our street to our house. So they had to park their rig at the top of the street and walk down."

The medics placed Seabeck on a gurney and wheeled him back down the street to the waiting ambulance.

Aslanian: "They were able to do it. We were very lucky that they were able to get here and able to help. And then they took Frank over to Overlake."

Overlake isn't their usual hospital, but Aslanian says they had to go with what was closest.

Now Aslanian is still stuck at home, worried but unable to visit Seabeck in the hospital.

Aslanian: "I'm stuck here; I can't get out. Yesterday and today, I can't get to the hospital."

In West Seattle, Mitch Barber says he was preparing for a cozy day of working from home Wednesday when his pregnant wife told him she was having some bleeding. They called a nurse's line and were told to bring her in to Swedish hospital on First Hill for an evaluation.

So Barber says he put chains on the car, but found arterial roads in Seattle to be fairly passable. He says it was a striking contrast to a similar trip they made during the 2008 snowstorm, when his wife was pregnant with their now–three year old.

That year —

Barber: " — We actually got stuck a couple of times, had to have somebody push us and eventually had to get someone with all–wheel drive to take my wife the rest of the way up to the hospital. So it's just a night–and–day comparison between the two storms."

Barber says his wife is fine and now on bedrest. He doesn't know why he and his wife always have such bad luck with their medical emergencies.

Barber: "Well, the first thing going through my mind is, 'Why does it always wait 'til the worst weather day of the year?!'"

But he gives high marks to the city of Seattle for the improvement over last time.

Barber says he was also struck by the sacrifices of the medical workers at the hospital. He says the nurse who they spoke to at Swedish said she's been staying at the hospital for the past two days rather than risk not being able to get there.

Barber: "It's some major dedication right there. And it sounds like she wasn't the only one who had done that exact same thing."

Emergency rooms remain open around the region. But beyond that, access can vary.

Elective surgeries were canceled at the Swedish Medical Office Building in Issaquah, which was running on "minimal" power. Overlake Hospital's Urgent Care Clinic in Issaquah was closed. Patients were being referred to the hospital's clinic in Redmond. Virginia Mason announced that some locations opened later and urged patients to call before getting on the road.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

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