A Las Vegas hospital canceled a cancer patient’s neck surgery because there weren’t enough beds.
Hospitals in the US are over capacity and cancelling some surgeries amid the COVID-19 surge.
Michael Kagan told Insider he wasn’t angry at unvaccinated people filling hospitals, but sad.
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A Las Vegas law professor with stage three melanoma told Insider he feels “helpless” and “depressed” as he waits in limbo for a vital surgery that was already canceled once due to a surge in COVID-19 cases that has swamped hospitals across the country and forced several to cancel elective surgeries.
“To be clear, I have a surgeon, they have an operating room, but what they don’t have is a recovery bed,” Michael Kagan said. “And that is because of the surge in COVID cases.”
Kagan was diagnosed with stage three skin cancer in June, nearly four months after his first symptom appeared in February.
“If you get skin cancer, you want to catch it on the skin before it spreads on your body,” Kagan told Insider. “But it’s now in my lymph nodes on the left side of my neck.”
So when his surgeon confirmed he needed a high-level neck procedure to remove as much of the cancerous lymph nodes as possible before he could begin his immunotherapy treatment process, Kagan was eager to go under the knife.
On July 8, Kagan’s surgeon suggested he undergo the procedure within the next four weeks in order to begin tackling the cancer that had been spreading untreated for months. His surgeon, however, didn’t have any availability within that time frame, so Kagan’s necessary surgery was scheduled for August 18, further delaying the start of his immunotherapy.
“I was not very happy about that,” Kagan said.
But, in the last week of July, Kagan said he received a welcome phone call. A doctor at another hospital in the area had an upcoming cancellation and Kagan could have the appointment, assuring his surgery would happen in the suggested four-week period and bumping up the start of his treatment.
“I told all my family, ‘I’m having surgery on August 4th.’ The surgeon scheduled me and they filed insurance paperwork,” Kagan said.
Then, 24 hours later, Kagan received a heartbreaking call.
His appointment had been cancelled. Amid the city’s rising COVID cases, the hospital had no available beds for him post-surgery.
“I felt like crying,” Kagan said. “I’ve dealt with the shock of a cancer diagnosis … I’ve gone through that grief process.”
“And so on days like that, when I was supposed to have surgery but that can’t happen, that makes me feel helpless.”
Now, Kagan waits in an ongoing state of uncertainty, hoping his original surgery date of August 18 won’t also be cancelled amid the still-growing COVID surge. He and his wife have talked about possible options should the procedure be further delayed, including trying to find a surgeon in another state or asking to begin his immunotherapy before the surgery.
“The feeling of doing nothing about my cancer is terrifying,” he said.
But even as the vast majority of COVID-19 hospital patients are unvaccinated, Kagan said he isn’t angry at those who are filling hospital beds because they chose to forgo the shot.
“For me, it’s a layer of sadness. I don’t want anyone to be sick and I don’t want people who are sick and need treatment to be judged,” he said. “But we have a simple known way to prevent so many people from being sick with COVID. I’m sad for me and I’m sad for them.”
While Kagan said he’s feeling more hopeful his scheduled surgery next week will happen, he still wants people to understand the spillover effects the pandemic is having on non-COVID patients.
“I have a bomb in my neck and untreated it will kill me,” he said.
“I’m not afraid of COVID because I’m vaccinated,” he added. “I am afraid of cancer. I’m afraid of my melanoma.”
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