Jill’s parents live 585 miles from her, in a small town of around 1,000 people. Her dad, Roger, must travel 70 miles to visit his primary care provider. At 83 years old, this presents healthcare challenges in the best of times for this rural farmer living with COPD, and during a pandemic it required extra effort to ensure that, when her dad tested positive for COVID-19, he was promptly treated for the best possible outcome.

Q. How did you find out your dad tested positive for COVID-19?

My dad is a man of few words and he’s not one to complain about feeling sick. But he wasn't looking good, so my mom, Ruth, called me to discuss her concerns. I asked him to please get tested for COVID-19, and when he took the test, it was positive. I was immediately concerned, much more than Dad seemed to be. It was difficult being so far away.

Three Steps to Take if You Have Respiratory Symptoms

  • Get Tested for COVID-19.
  • Know if You Are at High-Risk for Severe Illness.
  • Discuss Treatment Options with Your Healthcare Provider.

Q. How did you convince your dad to seek treatment for COVID-19?

After he tested positive, my dad visited his primary care provider who told him he wasn’t very sick and to go home and call if he got any sicker. When this information was relayed back to me, I objected and asked that he follow up with his pulmonologist. He didn’t want to, insisting that his primary care provider said he was doing okay, but I persisted. It wasn’t until I told my mom, “This can kill him,” that I got through to them and they called the pulmonologist for a second opinion

Upon hearing he tested positive, Dad’s pulmonologist wanted him to come in right away for an infusion.  But the center was backed up and he couldn’t get in until two days later, by which time he was feeling worse. The infusion center was 39 miles away, a far distance when you are in your 80s and not feeling well, but he made it. Within four hours of having the infusion, he was starting to feel better. Over the next couple days, he continued to improve at home. Thankfully, he made a full recovery.

Many individuals, including those living with chronic lung disease, are at high risk for severe illness if they get sick with COVID-19. Treatment, taken promptly after testing positive, can help your immune system fight off the virus so your symptoms are milder, and you are less likely to get severely ill and require hospitalization.

Q. What advice do you have that might help others in a similar circumstance?

It’s hard to explain living in rural America to people who have always lived in the city or suburbs. Rural communities make up 90%of the land in the United States, but only about 19%of the population. It’s hard for people who don’t live that spread out to understand the challenges. It’s not just how long it takes to get somewhere, but my mom and dad don't have access to the internet, which is not uncommon in rural communities, so information is not at their fingertips. When you have a loved one living in rural America, especially an aging parent, you must advocate for them and help them connect to resources, especially during the pandemic.

If you or a loved one are sick with COVID-19, any treatments used should be prescribed by your healthcare provider. Learn more about COVID-19 treatment at Lung.org/treating-covid.

This content was developed independently by the American Lung Association with grant support from Regeneron and GSK.

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