7-Year-Old's Surgery Delayed Due to COVID-19 Surge in San Diego County

Their situation is being repeated in hospitals across the county, as more health care workers test positive for COVID-19

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The time Alison spends running around with her dog Diesel these days is few and far between.

“She complains of neck pain daily,” says Emily Whale, Alison’s mother. “And a lot of times, what that does is it puts her to bed.”

The 7-year-old suffers from Chiari Malformation, a condition in which brain tissue extends into the spinal canal, often causing neck pain, headaches, or blurred vision. The family says they've been told the only way to prevent the condition from getting worse is through brain surgery. 

“We were told in November that it, [the surgery] should definitely not be put off more than three months," said Whale.

So they booked it in for Jan. 5 but the day before the procedure, Rady Children's Hospital called to cancel.

“And so we were just like, 'What's going on?”' said Whale. “And she told us that there was no OR staff. And so that was, it was just really shocking to hear.”

Their situation is being repeated in hospitals across the county, as more health care workers test positive for COVID-19.

At Rady Children’s Hospital officials say about four surgeries are being postponed every day. At UC San Diego Health, 27 surgeries were postponed Wednesday alone. And at Scripps Health officials say they too have had to postpone surgeries due to staffing shortages. 

“When we were originally told that it was canceled, and they had like no idea when they would be able to reschedule it, I went into panic mode,” said Whale. “When we first found out about the diagnosis, you know, they went over like the risks of what could happen if we didn't address it. [They said] scoliosis, paralysis, the, you know, all of the big things that could happen.”

Fortunately for the Whale family, Alison’s surgery was postponed just five days later to Jan.10. But her mother fears others may not be so lucky.

“I can't impress how important it is to just stay as safe as possible,” said Whale. “It is scary. We are just one family that's been affected by this and thankfully we have a good resolution. There are so many families that are probably dealing with the same thing.”

So far there haven't been any reports of canceled surgeries in hospitals across the county. Those that have been postponed have been determined by the hospital as non-urgent.

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