Maureen Schiller was not going to the hospital.

The 81-year-old and her husband had hunkered down once news about the spread of the potentially lethal COVID-19 virus hit Connecticut. When she started having progressively worse abdominal pain, she told her grown children that she would manage at home.

“I tried to ignore the pain because I didn’t want anything to do with the hospital,” she said. “Eventually, I couldn’t deal with the pain anymore.”

Schiller’s doctor referred her to Hartford Hospital for care when tests revealed that there was not adequate blood flowing to her intestines. Dr. Thomas Divinagracia, chief of vascular surgery at the hospital, said she underwent emergency surgery to insert two stents in arteries to restore the blood flow.

“It was at the height of the pandemic and some aspects of care were challenging,” said Dr. Divinagracia, who noted that processes at Hartford Hospital had shifted by that point to move surgery to the adjacent Bone & Joint Institute (BJI) to protect patients from COVID-19. “It was amazing how we were able to shift like that to provide care and protect patients.”

Schiller admits that she worried about safety in the hospital for naught.

“I knew I was in good hands, which made it easier to go into the hospital,” she said.

Her recovery went smoothly and the grandmother of 13 said she quickly returned to a normal diet and walking.

“I’ve even gained a few pounds!” she said, chuckling.

The use of the BJI space is an example of the “amazing ingenuity put forth in the hospital” during the pandemic, said Hartford HealthCare President and CEO Jeff Flaks.

“We redeployed the BJI facilities for non-COVID patients to keep them safe. All safety precautions were put in place to ensure that no one stays home in pain,” he said. “We can give you care when it matters most.”

For more information about vascular surgery at the Hartford HealthCare Heart & Vascular Institute, click here.

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