UPDATE: Vietnam veteran left behind by COVID-19 panic

UPDATE: After suffering another heart attack, the doctors decided that the operation was no longer elective, but necessary. He went into surgery this morning and is doing okay.

Lou Ciesla, a Vietnam  Air Force veteran, may need critical heart surgery, but, sorry, Lou, because coronavirus patients are expected to flood hospitals, even though they’re not there yet, your surgery has been knocked to the back of the line. It’s now defined as “elective.”

As Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has questioned whether the elderly should step aside for the sake of their grandchildren, Lou’s story has wider implications, Mike, Lou’s son and my son-in-law, tells his story:

By Michael Ciesla,

My father is 74 years old and needs quadruple bypass surgery.  He had a heart attack March 6 and was diagnosed with severe heart disease within days. 

We met with a heart surgeon last week and we were told that if these were normal times, my father would be having surgery within a week.  Because of the Coronavirus, all elective surgeries are barred. 

Believe it or not, bypass surgery is considered elective at this point. 

When we asked what it would take for an emergency surgery, we were told my father would need to be in cardiac arrest for surgery to even be considered.  The reality is, if he were in cardiac arrest, they would just let him pass because they do not want to use resources if they can avoid it.

Yesterday morning my father had to go back to the hospital because he is experiencing heart attack symptoms again. 

I have been to the hospital with my father several times this month.  Every time I have been there, the waiting rooms are virtually empty as are other rooms throughout the hospital.  This morning, I was literally the only person in the ER waiting room.  The ambulance bays were empty and there were not many patients in the ER rooms.  Last week my wife took our daughter to a different hospital in the middle of a weekday for stitches and they were the only people in the ER.

I have two points that people should be aware of:

First, America is making Coronavirus a priority over truly desperate medical cases.  Surgeries that can save people’s lives are barred because hospitals want to keep resources available for potential Coronavirus patients.  The news media have consistently stated facts that most people who contract Coronavirus will heal or never show symptoms.  The media do not mention how many people who do not have Coronavirus but have medical issues will die because they cannot receive the medical care they need.  I am positive that number will be a large multiple of the number of people who die from Coronavirus.

Second, the media portray hospitals as overrun and overworked.  That is nonsense, at least in the north and northwest suburbs.  Every picture I see on television of crowded hospitals are from Italy or China.  There are none from Illinois.  As I said, the hospitals are virtually empty.  Also, when my father first went to the hospital on March 6, he was given a coronavirus test as soon as he walked in.  Others in the hospital were also given such tests as I watched from the hallways of the ER.  The media kept saying there were no coronavirus tests in Illinois until last week.  I cannot speak for other hospitals but there absolutely were plenty of tests available in early March, which is contrary to the reporting then and now.

I suspect that my father is not the only person at high risk. I am begging for the media to report on the realties of what is happening in our hospitals. The public needs to know that hospitals are making Coronavirus a priority over–and to the fatal detriment of–truly sick individuals.

Mike, a north suburban attorney, sent this plea to a Chicago television. Will they do a report? 



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Filed under: Health

Tags: COVID-19, Lou Ciesla, Vietnam Veteran


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  • I am sorry for the father of the gentleman writing this post. And I realize that you, Dennis, and I seem to be at opposite ends on this situation. Unless we have many ,many thousands of deaths in the US some people will believe this was all overblown. I do not wish calamity on us. But I know the worst is likely yet to come. I was not in the hospital when the gentleman with the heart attack was brought in, so I cannot comment. Having worked in ER's I know that patient flow comes and goes, and I believe the Chicago area has not yet seen the worst. I do not for a minute believe that someone would be ignored because the hospital staff had better things to do, or were maybe just drinking coffee. We have not prepared for an epidemic and unfortunately, if we cannot prepare for the worst that may come, there will be tragedies. I hope he receives the care he needs. I am over 70 and it could happen to me, but just because we do not see people dying in droves, like in New York City, does not mean there is not a problem. Peace.

  • Thank you for your thoughtful note. I agree with much of what you say. I'm still waiting to hear word about Lou. They're not allowing visitors.

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