It's a bad time to get sick in Oregon. That's what many doctors are telling their patients and the public as hospitals full of COVID-19 patients have been forced to postpone some treatments of other medical conditions.
Charlie Callagan's scheduled bone-marrow transplant was postponed. Now he's waiting for a new surgery date, hunkered down at his home in Merlin, a small Rogue Valley town in southern Oregon.
Though he looks perfectly healthy, sitting in the smoky summer air on his outdoor deck, Callagan, 72, has multiple myeloma, a blood cancer of the bone marrow.
"It affects the immune system; it affects the bones," he says. "I had a PET scan that described my bones as looking 'kind of swiss cheese-like.'"
Callagan is a retired National Parks ranger. Fifty years ago, he served in Vietnam. This spring, doctors identified his cancer as one of those linked to exposure to Agent Orange, the defoliant used during the war.
In recent years, Callagan has consulted maps showing hot spots where Agent Orange was sprayed in Vietnam.
"It turns out the airbase I was in was surrounded," he says. "They sprayed all over."
A few weeks ago, Callagan was driving to Oregon Health and Science University in Portland for a bone marrow transplant, a major procedure that requires intensive follow-up tests and monitoring for complications.
But during the drive, Callagan got a call from his doctor.
"They're like, 'We were told this morning that we have to cancel the surgeries we had planned,'" he says.
Callagan's surgery was postponed until further notice because the hospital was full. That's the story at many hospitals in Oregon where they've been flooded with COVID-19 patients.https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/09/16/1037621883/overwhelmed-with-covid-patients-oregon-hospitals-postpone-surgeries-and-cancer-c