TAMPA, Fla. — Carol Johnson has battled Type 1 diabetes since she was 12.
It meant an unforgiving regime of injections and medication. For 12 years, an insulin pump has never been far from her side.
Diabetes has taken a toll on other parts of her body. She needed open-heart and eye surgery. Three years ago, her kidney function deteriorated to the point where she qualified for Tampa General Hospital’s donor list. In May, she was placed on regular dialysis, a sign of impending kidney failure.
So Johnson, 67, was thrilled in early August when her brother was approved as a donor.
That should have meant surgery within weeks, she said. But then she learned her operation was indefinitely on hold because the hospital had suspended elective surgeries due to a surge of COVID-19 patients.
Hope turned to frustration and fear. The longer she is on dialysis, the less the chance of success for her surgery. She is angry about all the people who ignored calls for them to get the vaccine, which is provided for free.
“They take up a hospital bed, and the hospital can’t turn them away,” she said. “I don’t wish them any ill will, of course, but when you make stupid mistakes, you should take responsibility.”
Hundreds of patients have been left waiting for surgeries as Tampa Bay hospitals diverted doctors, nurses, ventilators and beds to treat a record level of COVID patients.
AdventHealth has paused non-emergency surgeries at seven of its Tampa Bay Region hospitals. BayCare paused elective surgeries at hospitals in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties. HCA Healthcare has also suspended some procedures.
“COVID is affecting the whole of the health care system,” said BayCare chief medical officer Dr. Nishant Anand. “Every service has been stressed because of the increasing demands on health care needs.”