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COVID staffing shortage postpones Tierrasanta girl's brain surgery

COVID staffing shortage postpones Tierrasanta girl's brain surgery
Posted at 3:47 PM, Jan 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-06 01:32:56-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - One day before the procedure, a Tierrasanta mom learned her daughter's brain surgery would be postponed because of COVID staffing shortages.

Since 7-year-old Allison Whale first started complaining of neck pain 18 months ago, the symptoms have continued to get worse.

“She says it goes down into her shoulders. It causes migraines. Her eyes will hurt. She will get some blurry vision occasionally,” said her mother, Emily Whale.

The diagnosis came in November at the Naval Medical Center: a Chiari malformation, where brain tissue extends into the spinal canal, which created a pocket of spinal fluid in Allison's spine.

“Her qualify of life isn’t good right now. She doesn’t play as well anymore,” said a tearful Whale.

Doctors told Whale a brain surgery had to be done by mid-February in order to prevent complications, including scoliosis and even paralysis.

Surgery was scheduled for December, but it was canceled, because of a family emergency for the surgeon. Allison was referred to Rady Children's Hospital. Another procedure was scheduled for January 5.

A day before the surgery, Whale said a scheduler called and told her the surgery was postponed with no rescheduled date.

“I was sick to my stomach, to be honest … What’s going to happen?” said Whale. “We pressed a little bit to get an answer, and all we got was, there’s no OR (operating room) staff.“

A hospital spokesperson confirmed there were 43 reports of positive COVID tests among staff on Tuesday. That number climbed to 77 on Wednesday, the most since the pandemic began. According to the spokesperson, while no procedures have been canceled, about four surgeries are being postponed every day.

“My fear is it will cause irreparable damage because it won’t be completed. It may not be an emergency surgery, but it’s urgent,” Whale said.

After the ABC 10News interview with Whale on Wednesday morning, and hours after our first inquiry with the hospital, Whale's husband received a call from the hospital. Allison's surgery had been rescheduled for January 10.

I am feeling so overjoyed. I hope that this ending is the same for everybody,” said Whale.

This week, Rady Children's Hospital began urging people not to go to urgent care for COVID-19 tests if symptoms are mild.

Right now, 15 of the 30 beds in the special infectious disease unit are filled.