The patient described it as the “worst headache of her life.”
She didn’t go to the hospital though. Instead, the Washington state resident waited almost a week.
When Dr. Abhineet Chowdhary finally saw her, he discovered she had a brain bleed that had gone untreated.
The neurosurgeon did his best, but it was too late.
“As a result, she had multiple other strokes and ended up passing away,” says Chowdhary, director of the Overlake Neuroscience Institute in Bellevue, Wash. “This is something that most of the time we’re able to prevent.”
Chowdhary says the patient, a stroke survivor in her mid-50s, had told him she was frightened of the hospital.
She was afraid of the coronavirus.
The fallout from such fear has concerned U.S. doctors for weeks while they have tracked a worrying trend: As the pandemic took hold, the number of patients showing up at hospitals with serious cardiovascular emergencies such as strokes and heart attacks has shrunk dramatically.
Across the U.S., doctors call the drop-off staggering, unlike anything they’ve seen. And they worry a new wave of patients is headed their way — people who have delayed care and will be sicker and more injured when they finally arrive in emergency rooms.
It has alarmed certain medical groups such as the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. The latter is running ads to urge people to call 911 when they’re having symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.