SHERIDAN — Sheridan Memorial Hospital executives want Sheridanites to know COVID-19 is a real virus with real implications on human beings in our community.
“There are, and we’re seeing it here, people that are 30 or 40 years old get really, really sick,” Sheridan Memorial Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Addlesperger said. “We have people that are 50 that are very critically ill and may not survive. It’s really an unpredictable thing right now.”
“We want to stress that there’s no free ticket,” Addlesperger added.
SMH CEO Mike McCafferty said the executive team talked Thursday about how to appropriately share stories of those affected, emphasizing the virus is real and affects neighbors. Unfortunately, the idea of sharing a personal story about testing positive for the virus is stigmatized. With that, misinformation and disbelief turns into dissension.
“One of the things that’s disheartening is how all of this has become polarized,” McCafferty said. “We’d like to say that I think we all know that we can play a part in helping to slow the spread, and there’s a lot of different ways to do that. I think the community has a good sense of what those things are.”
COVID-19 affects all types of demographics, a misconception often spread. Wyoming Department of Health recorded the highest percentage of lab-confirmed cases in those 29 years old and younger. For those 18 years old and younger, 23.8% of positive lab-confirmed cases were among those in that age group, followed by 22.4% in those 19-29 years old.
The least amount of lab-confirmed cases by age group were 70-80+, with 5.6% of lab-confirmed cases being 70-79-year-olds and 2.7% 80+.
With that, 48.7% of all of Wyoming’s lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported no when asked if they had underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease.
Those hospitalized, however, are in the minority of those who tested positive for COVID-19 in Wyoming. Those contracting the virus who were not hospitalized includes 49.9% compared to 5% hospitalized — with a contingency that 45.1% of the cases did not report whether they were hospitalized to WDH.
Those with pre-existing health conditions and elderly are more susceptible to contracting the virus, but younger patients have been admitted into the hospital and been “very, very sick.”
Doctors typically admit COVID-19 patients into the hospital when breathing becomes difficult.
Those patients receive constant support, as COVID-19 patients are known to progress very quickly. A week after contracting the virus, hospital staff has seen inflammatory responses, which may cause multi-system organ failure, especially that of the heart and lungs.
“We can’t do a test to predict that, we can just respond to it,” Addlesperger said.
The medication used to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Sheridan County are closely vetted by SMH professionals and include Remdesivir — an antiviral medication — and steroids.
Those medicines have proven effective for some patients in the region but doesn’t negate the chance for mortality or long-term effects.
While long-term effects cannot be studied at this point, medical professionals from SMH recognize heart problems in COVID-19 patients after they are released from the hospital. Complications have included heart problems, heart failure, loss of sense of smell and hearing and nerve pain.
“We just don’t know if those things are going to resolve or not over time,” Addlesperger said. “We can’t predict (what will happen long term).”
As cases continue to rise in our community, Addlesperger reminded Sheridanites that it’s not because of increased test availability.
“Testing is going up and it’s more prevalent because people are symptomatic and doing it. But no, it’s not just because of more testing,” Addlesperger said. “It’s more disease in our community.”
Medical professionals, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, still advise all to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by washing your hands, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others whenever possible and, when that is not possible, wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth.