Letter to the Editor: Dr. Jim Dwyer, Chair of Emergency Medicine, Northern Westchester Hospital

An Open Letter to the Community:

James Dwyer MD

After weeks of isolation and social distancing, we are finally seeing signs that our efforts and sacrifice are paying off as the COVID curve finally begins to flatten.

As we begin to imagine a return to a semblance of normal life, Northern Westchester Hospital remains committed to providing our community with the best and safest person-centered care in both its ambulatory and inpatient settings. Our very highest priority continues to be our community’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.

This unprecedented pandemic has been frightening for everyone. One of the most alarming consequences of this fear is that people are staying away from the emergency room even when they are experiencing serious, life-threatening conditions. As a result, untold numbers of people may be dying at home or risking long-term health consequences by ignoring serious symptoms of heart attacks, strokes, infections and trauma.

We need people to understand that it is safe to go to the ER, and far more dangerous to stay home and wait for serious symptoms to disappear.

It is important to visit the emergency room if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain, including tightness, and pain that spreads to the arms, neck, jaw or back; sudden onset of shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness or lightheadedness; or unexplained nausea, indigestion, or heartburn may all be signs of heart attack. People who survive a heart attack may have weakened heart muscles and are at risk for life-threatening complications including another more serious heart attack.
  • Body weakness, especially on one side; facial droop; difficulty speaking or finding words; sudden loss of vision; numbness or loss of sensation; or unsteadiness on your feet can be signs of a stroke. When caught early, immediatetreatment may prevent death and minimize a stroke’s long-term effects. Even if a stroke is minor, it is important to receive an evaluation and treatment in order to prevent another, possibly devastating, stroke.
  • Pain in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen (which typically increases when you move and intensifies over 24 to 48 hours), sometimes with loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, and fever, may be signs of appendicitis. When caught early, a surgeon can remove the appendix and often send you home the same day. If the appendix ruptures, a patient will spend days in the hospital and be at risk of life-threatening conditions that include peritonitis and sepsis.

Northern Westchester Hospital has instituted numerous safety protocols to ensure the health and wellbeing of our patients, physicians and staff.

When people visit our emergency department, they are required to put on a mask and are screened for Covid-19 symptoms at the entrance. Everyone in the entire institution wears a mask, and patients in our emergency department are treated in one of our 26 private rooms. Protection for staff and patients prevents exposure to Coronavirus, and the chances of contracting the virus at the hospital are far less likely than contracting it out in the community.

The care and safety of our community will always be our top priority, and there are many resources available to help. For information on emotional support and Covid testing, visit https://www.northwell.edu/coronavirus-covid-19. For specific information on what to expect if you need care at Northern Westchester Hospital please go to www.nwhc.net.

Our physicians, staff, administrators, and all health care workers on the front lines continue to perform extraordinary work during these very difficult circumstances. We very much appreciate the community’s unwavering support, and look forward to providing the skilled and compassionate care that our patients have to come expect.

We know we will all get through this together. As we begin to emerge from this crisis, please continue to wear your masks and practice social distancing; stay safe and take care of yourself and your family.

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About the Author: James Dwyer