Woman's push to regain independence in limbo as her brain surgery for dystonia is 'elective procedure'

Four years ago, 38-year-old Jodi Oliver was diagnosed with dystonia. She lost basic speech and motor skills and now, her sister is stepping in to help.

"Cutting our own food, brushing our teeth, washing our hair," Jannen Oliver, Jodi's sister, explains.

"Kind of just existing, moving around. Doing things for myself," said Jodi Oliver, who is battling the condition.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the brain surgery she was scheduled to have to regain her independence has once again been pushed back. This time, around March 2021 at the earliest.

The delays stem from the fact that her surgery is considered an elective procedure. Most hospitals across Southern California have postponed elective procedures due to a surge in COVID-19 patients.

"This is the best part of me during the day and after this, I’ll be pretty done for the day. I’d also like to get better so I can work again and contribute to society and not be on disability and that’s getting pushed back longer and longer," Jodi said.

Although they're considered elective surgeries, many are considered essential -- in Jodi's case, it's a brain surgery -- and in other cases, organ transplants, knee and hip replacements.

At Cedars-Sinai medical center, surgeon Dr. Arash Moradzadeh says staff for elective procedures is limited and the hospital has covered pre-opt and recovery rooms into ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

"The entire hospital is being transformed into an emergency medical COVID hospital," said Dr. Moradzadeh. "It’s gotten so bad that now nursing students are actually being offered positions as nurses to try to get additional support, people are being asked to not take vacation and to work more shifts so it’s a very critical time and there’s really not enough of everybody."

A spokeswoman for Dignity Health says it has "temporarily suspended some scheduled procedures….to focus our resources on caring for those with critical health needs." 

Providence is able to continue essential surgeries at some of its hospitals while postponing procedures at others.

Bottom line: If you are in a medical emergency, don't delay seeking care.

"I’ve seen a couple patients in the last couple weeks who were too scared to go to a doctor," said Dr. Moradzadeh. "They let something go for three to four months now, for example, that was a small early cancer that we could’ve quickly treated and managed and now, it’s a large tumor that’s going to need extensive procedures."

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