BILLINGS — A Colstrip family is thanking their lucky stars after they say a family member was denied emergency surgery at all major Montana hospitals, including the two hospitals in Billings.
The good news finally came Tuesday when Cody Regional Health in Wyoming was able to take in Shawn Loyning and fix a perforation in his bowel.
But it was panic and fear for his wife, Janelle, who said she finally ended up calling around to every hospital she could think of just to save her husband’s life.
“I guess I never realized it was this bad,” said Janelle Loyning.
The number of people currently hospitalized in Montana as of October 13 due to COVID is 510, the highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began. The previous single-day high was 506 on November 20, 2020. These numbers continue to tax the state's medical facilities, and many are already operating at capacity.
The trouble for Shawn started Monday, according to Janelle. “He was just not doing well,” she said. “He was in severe pain, and I said you must go to the emergency room.”
His case was critical, she said, but ordinarily, Shawn would have surely gotten a surgery bed had it not been for the pandemic.
Janelle says at every turn, hospitals around the state from Kalispell, Bozeman and Helena were saying no to taking his case. “No, we can't take you, we don't have the staffing. No, we can't take you, we don't have the surgeon. We don't have room for you,” she said.
Janelle was shocked at what was happening.
“So, you're telling me my husband was going to die because you guys are overwhelmed with COVID?” she said. “I was getting frustrated. What if I just put him in the car and showed up, you would turn us away? And they basically said yes.”
MTN News contacted Billings Clinic hospital and St. Vincent hospital to see if patients are being turned away.
Billings Clinic released this statement:
Billings Clinic continues to make every effort to provide the procedures our community and region need, including life-saving care. Our operating rooms remain open for emergency and scheduled procedures, and we will continue to provide critically important care to trauma patients and transfers from the region. Extremely high patient numbers across Montana during this latest surge of new COVID-19 hospitalizations means hospital resources may be stretched at times, but this should not be a deterrent to seeking care. If you have an emergency and need care you should seek it out immediately by calling 911, going to the emergency department, or finding the right level of care for your needs.
St. Vincent said:
At St. Vincent Healthcare, we continue to serve those who are in critical need of medical services, including surgical care and hospitalization. The process of treating urgent and emergent cases has not changed. If you need emergency care, please seek medical attention immediately. In regards to elective surgeries, we have reduced our volume by 50 percent.
Janelle said her husband's situation was so dire when he finally got to Cody late Tuesday night, doctors were too busy providing emergency care before they could begin operating.
“They couldn't start surgery right away because his blood pressure tanked to the point that they were saving his life at that point,” she said. “The surgeon said he would not have made it much longer. He absolutely was as critical as they come.”
She says Shawn is doing much better but he’s not out of the woods yet.
She is encouraging anyone who might find themselves in their situation to use good faith and get out there and find care, something those with Billings Clinic officials also advises people to do too.