A Deloraine family recently got a phone call they had hoped would never come.
After waiting almost four months, John McGregor and Melissa Smith were told Thursday that their son Ryker’s surgery set for Monday at Neepawa Health Centre was being cancelled because of COVID-19’s impact on the health-care system.
"It took a lot of time and preparation for this just to have it cancelled," Smith told the Sun Friday.
The family was offered another surgery date for Jan. 31 but has been warned there’s a strong chance it will be cancelled again as the number of COVID-related hospitalizations continues to climb.
The problems for Ryker started about a year ago, Smith said.
Swelling in his throat causes the seven-year-old to cough and struggle as he eats. He eats soft food to make it easier to swallow, but even so, he still has trouble feeding himself as much as he should because he wants to avoid the difficult experience.
"The poor kid can’t even eat without choking," Smith said. "Everything he tries to eat he chokes on."
A specialist the family had to travel from Deloraine to Portage La Prairie to see ordered that Ryker has his adenoids — a mass of tissue where the nose meets the throat — removed and tubes put in his eardrums.
According to Smith, getting that referral to the specialist was a months-long ordeal.
Preparing for the initial surgery date took some effort, Smith said. McGregor is frequently away from the house from Monday to Friday and had booked a week off from work to be available to take care of Ryker after his procedure.
Now they’re not sure if he’ll be able to get time off for the rescheduled surgery date.
"The problem I have with that is that two weeks ago, they had an outbreak," Smith said. "Now they have another. I can’t continue to have my husband book holidays and get everything arranged just to cancel it again on the 31st."
The procedure was also originally scheduled to take place in February, but Ryker’s parents were able to negotiate an earlier date.
Also complicating the preparation for the surgery is that Ryker has special needs. Because the boy has a mild form of autism, Tourette’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it was difficult to explain to him why he needed the surgery.
"To talk to him about the surgery and get him to calm down about it took a long time," Smith said. "When I first had to tell him about it, he was very upset. He was agitated, he was very nervous, but we got him to the point where he knows he has to have this done to make him feel better ... and here we are, it’s cancelled."
Now McGregor and Smith will have to prepare their son for his surgery again, whenever it ends up taking place.
In an email to the Sun, a spokesperson for Prairie Mountain Health said the current outbreak is the reason for the cancellation.
"ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) surgeries in Neepawa have been postponed while Neepawa Health Centre is in outbreak status which is impacting staffing," the spokesperson wrote. "While this is regrettable for this patient and their family, high levels of COVID activity in the community have affected our workforce, and this postponement was unavoidable. Elective surgeries, including ENT surgeries, will resume once staffing stabilizes."
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