‘They must have known that the NHS was already under pressure and they went ahead with opening up anyway and that’s pretty scary’
Angela DePastino, envelhecido 46, was left distraught after being told the cirurgia to remove cancer in her womb – scheduled for Monday – had to be delayed because of the numbers of coronavírus patients being admitted to the Princess Alexandra Hospital, in Harlow.
Ms DePastino, who lives in Essex, has not been given a new date for the surgery and was not allowed to speak with her consultant. And her pleas to be referred somewhere else were ignored, ela disse.
She decided to speak out to O Independente after seeing headlines in other media outlets celebrating the “end” of the pandemic and life returning to normal. The consequences of opening up for people like her, ela disse, were “terrifying.”
“I’ve seen headlines about how people are being are being encouraged to delete the NHS app, and that staff have tested positive and managers have told them to work anyway and not report the results. This is telling me that pouring pints is more important than lives, and that’s not acceptable to me.
“People have got this idea they want to get back to normal but what about people like me whose normal has been ripped away from them. Our only chance at normal is now being delayed or taken away so that people that are completely healthy can go about their business.
“If we’re going to get back to normal that means people who need care should be able to get care; it can’t be one or the other, that’s not right.”
Ela adicionou: “We’re talking about people being able to go on holiday, people being able to go to the pub, people being able to have a party at their wedding. I don’t see why those things are taking precedence over actual human life.
“Why should we die because our care has been taken away? We don’t have a choice in this, and we’re not being heard.”
She is one of a growing number of cancer patients whose surgeries have been delayed in recent weeks after coronavirus admissions to hospital in England started to rise.
O Independente has learned operations, including for cancer, have been cancelled in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Barnsley, Hampshire and London in recent weeks.
Although the numbers of Covid patients in hospitals are significantly lower than in previous waves, hospitals have limited capacity for planned surgery because of efforts to reduce large backlogs caused by the pandemic and a surge in emergency admissions that have hit A&E departments.
Ms DePastino had already undergone major surgery last year, after she was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September 2020. In October, she had an operation to remove the cancer and endure “awful, debilitating” chemotherapy throughout the start of this year. Her 22-year-old daughter Sydney moved back home to help look after her.
Clinicians have also diagnosed her with a genetic condition known as Lynch Syndrome which leaves her predisposed to developing other tumours in the future.
As she was beginning to get her life back on track in April, she was hit with news that she had got cancer of the womb and needed a full hysterectomy.
“I felt hope, I felt happy for the first time in a long time. I was just starting to get back to some normality in life. I was being so productive and starting to get my life back on track and then I got this diagnosis and the world stopped again.”
Her operation was scheduled for 26 July but was cancelled just days earlier after what she was told was a “surge in Covid patients.”
“The phone call was very unpleasant; I didn’t feel like it was very empathetic. They just said they were calling to cancel my surgery due to a surge in Covid patients. I was shocked for a moment and couldn’t really take it in.”
She was told she couldn’t speak to anyone else, and she was told she would not be referred somewhere else.
“I was just cut off at everything and I said ‘so let me just get this straight, you’re cancelling my cancer surgery for Covid patients, you won’t let me talk to anyone else. You won’t give me a time frame, and you won’t send me anywhere else?’
“All of a sudden my life was just falling apart again before my eyes and I don’t even have anyone I can talk to about it, I just started to panic.”
She wasn’t keen to be in the spotlight at all, ela disse, but felt she had to speak out because patients like her, and the impact unlocking is having on them, are being ignored.
“I was just thinking this is happening to me which means it’s happening to other people, and I’m not seeing anything where that’s being reflected.”
She criticised the lack of transparency from the NHS and the government over the pressures on hospitals: “They must have known that the NHS was already under pressure and they went ahead with opening up anyway and that’s pretty scary.
“That is what has shaken my faith in humanity in the last week, to know that people in charge have potentially knowingly released all restrictions, knowing that that was going to mean this for people like me.
“The whole point that the government made at the beginning, when they started lockdowns, was we must protect the NHS and now the NHS isn’t protected, and patients like me aren’t protected.
“It feels like someone is hiding this information to get life back to normal.”
Stephanie Lawton, chief operating officer at the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust, disse: “We are committed to supporting our patients throughout their cancer treatment with high quality care and, even though we are experiencing an extremely high demand for our services, we are prioritising urgent cancer treatment and surgery.
“We are very sorry to hear Ms DePastino’s concerns, and while we are supporting her and identifying a date for her surgery to be rebooked as soon as possible, would welcome her contacting our PALS team so we can look into them further.”