Virtual Care Helps Mesothelioma Survivor Manage COVID-19

virtual doctor visit

When I was told I had COVID-19, I was in fear and shock. As a mesothelioma survivor, I really did think I was going to be admitted to the hospital.

I was especially concerned given the fact that no one knows what COVID will do to their bodies. I wanted to be monitored constantly. High demands, right? But I’m serious when it comes to my health.

Navigating Virtual COVID-19 Treatment

After my initial diagnosis at the hospital, I was sent home. I received an email notice almost immediately that I had been signed up for a COVID “virtual hospital.”

I’m sure each hospital system has its own way of doing things, but this is how my local hospital, Atrium Health, handled its virtual hospital.

First, I was assigned to a team of nurses who monitored me for the entire duration of my quarantine period. I also received an email every day to remind me to check in.

With this system, I was able to list the current symptoms I was having as well as my vital signs. I could also post questions I had for the nurses.

My care team nurses would call and check in with me every day. They would go over my symptoms and answer any questions I had. It’s good to have a thermometer, blood pressure machine and an oximeter to measure your oxygen levels, because it’s possible they will ask you for those numbers.

The virtual hospital relieved my anxiety a little bit, because it eased my fears of being on my own at home with the virus.

Technology Is King in the Virtual Hospital

If you have a smartphone, use it to access the interactive website where you can communicate with your care team.

I personally wouldn’t recommend using a computer because you probably won’t feel like being on a computer. Your phone is portable and much more convenient.

If you are not tech savvy, let them know so they can find ways to accommodate you. Often those looking after your care can discuss your symptoms over the phone.

Don’t hesitate to ask your care team if you have any questions.

Health Department Check-Ins

If you thought you that was it, it’s not. The health department checked on me a couple of times a week as well.

The first time they called they did an assessment so that they could do contact tracing. They wanted to know who I had been around when I was contagious with the virus.

With this information, they connected with everyone I was in contact with and made sure they got tested for the virus.

When the health department nurse checked on me she monitored my symptoms and vitals. All of this was done over the phone.

The health department will also send you resources for financial help with various things such as bills, food etc. if you need assistance.

This definitely was an experience that I will never forget. But I am grateful for where I am now and how far I’ve come.

I’m also grateful for my virtual care team, who checked on me every day and made sure I was OK. Even though I didn’t meet them face to face, they still helped in more ways than they could imagine.

Your COVID-19 Questions Answered

What precautions should people caring for their loved ones with mesothelioma take during the COVID-19 pandemic?

It’s important to take all precautions specified by the CDC. It’s vital to wash your hands and make sure that you’re wearing your mask. Limit the number of visitors to the home. This will help protect all of you.

How do I encourage my family to wear a mask when visiting? I want them to visit and I don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Be honest with them. Tell them that if they don’t wear a mask, they won’t be able to visit. Remind them that the immune system of a cancer patient is often compromised. Let them know you’re also trying to take every precaution to keep them from getting COVID-19.

What should I do if I have to travel for mesothelioma treatments or a clinical trial? Should I wait? Would staying in a hotel be too risky?

If you have to travel for treatment, check with the facility that’s providing your treatments and ask them about their current schedule due to COVID-19. Also check with your physician about traveling.

Each clinic should have communication guidelines in place telling you about any changes to the schedule or treatments. They will also communicate with you about the policies and restrictions they have been enforcing due to COVID.

Make sure you follow all CDC precautions. The agency also has guidelines for knowing your travel risks. Wear your mask and be sure to adhere to social distancing. Some facilities have you call them and check in from your car. Once they are ready for you, they will call you to come into the building.

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Tamron Little

Mesothelioma Survivor and Writer

Tamron Little was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in 2007 when she was just 21 years of age. After more than a decade of surviving with mesothelioma, Little is sharing her experiences to support people recently diagnosed with this rare, asbestos-related cancer.

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