Though many people have been hesitant to reach out for health care, fearing exposure to COVID-19, putting off a visit to the doctor can cause other existing health conditions to worsen. Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Burlington County has put a broad range of safety measures in place to successfully manage the risk to patients and staff and wants patients to feel confident about safely returning to their doctor.
Four patients share their personal experience with the proactive safety protocols implemented at Deborah Heart and Lung Center — a premier hospital for heart, lung, and vascular care — and why it’s important not to delay your health care, even during the pandemic.
Health care is a top priority for 53-year-old Forked River resident and EMT Andy Dellolio, who has diabetes and underwent a kidney transplant six years ago. “I have a compromised immune system,” he said, “but I trust Deborah Heart and Lung Center more than anything and felt that it’s a good time to move forward with my procedure — bariatric surgery at Deborah.”
Though he assumed he’d have to postpone his procedure due to the pandemic, “I felt very safe at the hospital when I came for an endoscopy and in the outpatient procedure unit where I recovered,” he said.
“We’re absolutely at a place where we can very safely see patients, and in Andy’s case, having this surgery will have a positive impact on both his weight and his diabetes,” agreed Dellolio’s bariatric surgeon, Basil Yurcisin, MD. For anyone who’s put off treatment due to the pandemic, “the hospital is a ‘safe zone,’ ” Dellolio confirmed. “Don’t put your health at risk.”
Browns Mills resident Debbie Bormida, 69, has been a Deborah patient since 2005, when she suffered respiratory failure and required a tracheostomy followed by an ablation and the implantation of a heart monitor last November. Throughout all this, pulmonary rehabilitation therapy helped her tremendously on her road to recovery. Debbie, however, had to hit the pause button when the pandemic hit this spring. Upon her return, she said: “I was very impressed by all of the safety measures at the hospital. Things were very well run from the first moment when I had my temperature taken; no one was sitting together and I didn’t even have to touch a pen. I felt very comfortable and wasn’t the least bit nervous.”
Equally important to Bormida was re-starting her pulmonary rehab. “I’m so happy to be back and know it will help me get stronger,” she said.
“I’m so happy that Debbie was comfortable coming back to the hospital — she was way overdue for an appointment and it’s so important that she keep up with her care,” agreed her physician, Andrew Martin, MD. “I’m confident that she’s going to gain a lot of strength and stamina through pulmonary rehab.”
Whiting, NJ, resident Patrick Maloney, 83, had a double-bypass and aortic valve replacement at Deborah several years ago, but two years later the former smoker ended up back in the hospital with congestive heart failure. Scared of contracting COVID, he began cancelling his follow-up doctor’s appointments when the pandemic hit, but when his condition left him out of breath and with no appetite this past May, he required immediate medical care.
“He waited too long to go to the doctor,” his granddaughter Ally said of symptoms that worsened because of his delay. But thanks to the care he received at Deborah, Maloney rallied just in time to celebrate his birthday on June 4. “Even if you feel nervous, don’t hesitate to go to the hospital because it could potentially save your life,” Ally said.
Cholesterol and blood pressure medicine helped 56-year-old Susan Morris of Barnegat manage her hypertension, until one night when burning chest pain landed her in the emergency room.
After being transferred to Deborah Heart and Lung Center, doctors implanted a stent to open a blocked artery. When it came time for her follow-up appointment, “I wasn’t sure with the coronavirus pandemic whether or not I should go back to the hospital,” Morris said. “I was worried about that, but I was also really worried about my heart. I knew I needed to keep on track with my health care.”
To her delight, her visit to the hospital was extremely positive. “The staff took my temperature, asked me screening questions, and there was lots of space between everyone in the waiting room,” she said. “I felt very safe and knew that the staff was taking every extra precaution to protect me. It made me realize how important it is to keep up with my health care, even during these times, and I trust Deborah with my safety.”
While these patient testimonials underscore safety, Deborah has never lost sight of its primary mission of excellent medical care and compassion and kindness.
“Making patients feel comforted and cared for is of utmost importance to us, especially at this time,” said Rita Zenna, RN, Vice President Patient Care Services. “We know how frightening it can be for many of our patients right now having to undergo procedures without their normal support systems readily available. It is vitally as important that not only do we provide our patients with safe, competent care, but also with the human aspects of healing, kindness, and touch that also matter just as much. This is a priority for our staff.”
“Now, more than ever, it’s important for patients to work and communicate with their doctors to get the care you need – appropriately and safely.”
Learn how Deborah is keeping its patients safe, visit DemandDeborah, Safety First .