Fear drives heart patients away from hospitals, doctors worry

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Doctors say fear is driving some of the most vulnerable patients away from the hospital, as COVID-19 continues unleashing its wrath nationwide.

“I wouldn’t hesitate,” Floyd Arnold said.

With a history that includes triple bypass surgery, Arnold understands the concern but refuses to let the worry of contracting COVID-19 dictate his every move.

“In my condition, you know, it’s a good chance I might not survive it, so I got to be extra careful,” Arnold said.

A large number of patients don’t have Arnold’s mentality. Doctors said they insist on staying home, refusing to possibly expose themselves to the virus.

“Our fear is that they are suffering and possibly dying at home, and we don’t want there to be a second wave of morbidity and mortality as a result of not seeking needed care,” said Dr. David Wohns, division chief of cardiology at Spectrum Health.

Wohns said COVD-19 can have a severe impact on people with cardiovascular issues.

“The heart can be directly affected. It can be damaged,” Wohns said. “We call that Myocarditis: It’s where the heart stops pumping very well.”

Medical professionals said the complications continue with issues like closed arteries or blood clots in the arteries. Considering COVID-19 severely affects and sometimes kills patients with underlying medical conditions, doctors said an office visit is vital.

“We certainly don’t want people suffering at home for fear of going to the hospital and for misinterpretation of what they think may be respiratory illness that is potentially their heart disease,” Wohns said.

Hospital workers said their patients’ doubts don’t fall on deaf ears, but like Arnold, they reassure them they’re in good hands.

“If you need to go to the doctor, go to the doctor,” Arnold said. “Wear a mask, wear your gloves.”