Written by Betsy Barnett on . Posted in News

After nine months of hiding in our homes, washing our hands extensively, socially distancing ourselves, wearing masks, worrying about our fellow citizens, closing our businesses, losing our jobs, and on and on--- the COVID-19 virus seems to have finally arrived in full force in rural Eastern Colorado.  Prior to November there were few cases, it was rare anyone was hospitalized, and a person actually dying from the complications of the virus was unheard of, for the most part.  We had been in the Blue-skies-sailing-easily-along category of the Colorado COVID-19 DIAL for months and months, and in fact, were making plans to apply for a Green status just a couple of months ago. 

As we enter December, across this part of the state, counties’ COVID-19 Dial Levels are now turning Red faster than the Christmas lights that are starting to twinkle in our homes.  Red means “Severe Risk,“and is measured by a series of demographic factors and other information about how the virus is behaving among this particular population.  As of this week’s report from the Kiowa County Public Health officials, the distribution of the positive virus cases among age groups in Kiowa County, for example, is pretty evenly distributed from one case in the youngest category to 7 in the 80+ category.  Unfortunately, since that report, they have identified 3 new cases in the Prairie Pines Assisted Living Facility that is cause for alarm.

However, when we drill down a little more, for the most part and in general, age matters.  A person in the young adult age group described their symptoms by saying, “I feel like I have a cold.”  A person in the 35-45 age group said, “It made me sick and I felt I needed medication to get over it, so I used the telehealth option to talk to the clinic.  They got me the meds I needed. They did the trick and I felt better right away.”  But for the oldest people or those with more than one health co-morbidity such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or auto-immune disease, to name just a few, the virus is much, much more insidious. 

The overall summary, with some exceptions, is that age and health make a tremendous difference in the positive outcome for those who have contracted the virus. 

Then why is every person in our neck of the woods who has tested positive being told the same thing---go home and quarantine for two weeks, take Tylenol, and drink plenty of water?  What?  A person, no matter their age, but especially those in the vulnerable categories are told to go home and isolate themselves and hope for the best.  Really?  Is that the best we can do?

Yes, actually, until just a few days ago, from the perspective of our health system, that is the best we could do.  The health system is trying their utter best to protect their personnel, too.  They are also trying to protect their liability and their ability to financially receive state and/or federal assistance for COVID-19 treatments.  They are petrified to take in a COVID patient as it puts the health system at terrible vulnerability.  It’s not their fault.  The protocol they have developed was well-thought out with the staff, other patients, and the nursing home patients’ vulnerability in mind.  They are at the mercy, as We the People in the general population are also at the mercy, of the government agencies who are controlling the health systems, including public health, and therefore controlling the outcomes, good or bad, that the people are experiencing.

So, now that we understand that the health systems’ hands have been tied to some extent since March, we can understand a little better why their initial advise to a COVID-positive person is quarantine (so you don’t give it to anyone else) and take Tylenol and drink lots of water.  Oh, and hope for the best.  That seems to be all they had for the early days of the virus. 

But, unfortunately, that early time period, the first 7 days, may be the most important time frame to be the most proactive in the treatment of a patient.  As Dr. Kurt Papenfus, physician at Keefe Memorial Hospital in Cheyenne Wells who is currently in the hospital in the city and on Day 38 of fighting this insidious virus, recently said to a friend, “It’s easy to kill the baby virus.  That’s where we have to kill it.  If we wait until it’s a full-grown adult virus, that sucker is damn-near impossible to kill.”

So why aren’t we killing the virus when it’s a baby?  Why, instead are we giving advice to isolate, take medicine that may relieve some symptoms, but not do anything to the virus, and drink water?   The health care system will tell you it’s because they don’t have anything, any medicine, that will kill the baby virus.  Instead, they are saving what medications and procedures they do have for when we get so sick, we have to be hospitalized.  And they don’t have many medicines that have been “approved” by the multi-lettered agencies such as the CDC, FDA and WHO. 

Here’s how the typical COVID-19 case has been occurring in eastern Colorado.  These scenarios are very dependent on many factors, but in general when a young person, age 1 to 45, is told to isolate, take Tylenol and drink water, that seems to pretty much do the trick because their immune systems have less problem fighting off the baby virus.  However, for those people who are older than 50 or 60, have developed at least one health condition that puts them at risk, the story is different.  And, unfortunately, this age group is much less inclined to go test in the first place thinking they can fight it off. 

One heartbreaking story that exemplifies the experience for our older population comes from a woman from Eastern Colorado in her 70s with Type 1 diabetes.  Naturally, in looking back at her situation, it would seem that she was an individual who should have been given much more consideration by her health professionals than what she received.  A family member describes her story, “She was tested on a Wednesday, was positive, and they sent her home with instructions to drink fluids and take Tylenol. We called her 3-4 times a day, she kept saying she was fine and just very tired. She also said she was breathing fine, so we were not too worried. We talked to her Saturday night and she sounded strong and said she was just tired. When we called Sunday morning, she sounded weak and said we needed to come get her. We got there within 5 minutes, but it was already too late. She stopped breathing and was gone before we could do anything.”

Or what about the 61-year-old farmer who failed to be tested in the early days of contracting the virus thinking he could tough it out and knowing there wasn’t anything they could do anyway.  He didn’t want to be another case statistic in his county’s Dial assessment that might force the businesses or schools to lock down even more.  However, with a couple of health conditions already, the virus took ahold of him to the point where he was desperately sick by Days 10 and 11 and had developed blood clots.  He was flown flight for life into a city hospital where no family member could be with him.  He was given Remdesivir, a blood thinner such as Lovanox, and the antibiotic Azithromycin to ward off bacterial pneumonia that is commonly associated with the later stages of the virus.  And, of course, oxygen.  He had the virus for a good two weeks before he could come home.  He’s still dreadfully weak and doctors expect it will take him months to gain the strength he will need to properly conduct his strenuous farming duties. 

So, what do we do?  Are we to just accept the fact that if we contract the virus we have to depend on luck and hope we somehow don’t end up on a ventilator in a city hospital with our loved ones barred from being with us?   No, we now have options.  We can change our mindset and take advantage of the options that are currently available.

First, according to Jessica Hyman, Nurse Practitioner at the Eads Medical Clinic, “Preventative measures for general health is an excellent place to start and to continue with while and after you become sick.  Nutritionally, eat a lot of foods with strong antioxidant benefits such as fruits and vegetables.  Protein will help build your body back up.  Definitely drink a lot of water.  Get outside and enjoy the fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.  Take daily walks.  Above all, it may sound crazy, but stop every hour and take 10 slow, DEEP breaths.  This actually allows the bottom of your lungs to expand and stay open---which is very important in fighting this virus.” 

Hyman also provided us with a list of supplements that have shown good benefit for people who have contracted COVID-19.  She adds, “These supplements are good for prevention (as a prophylaxis) and, again, during and after illness.”  These are meant to be taken daily---yes, all of them.

Vitamin C - 500mg daily (eat with this)
B Complex - (per manufactures directions)
Vitamin D3 - 5000iu per day
Zinc - 100mg per day (eat with this)
NAC (N-acetylcysteine)
Melatonin - 3-5mg daily

Another purchase that all households should make is a Pulse Oxidation Meter.  By using a meter, the ones suffering through COVID in the household, can easily keep track of their blood oxidation levels.  Hyman says, “Generally, we want the pulse ox measurement to be in the 90s.  If it gets down to 88% or lower the individual probably needs to receive oxygen and should immediately call their health provider.”

Just within the last week, the rural hospitals of eastern Colorado finally accessed Remdesivir, although expensive and somewhat helpful in the later stages of the virus, it is at least something that can be given in the hospital along with oxygen.  Hyman says, “This is a game-changer for the rural hospitals.  We have 40 doses of Remdesivir which is enough for just five patients, at this point.  We also just finished work on our negative pressure hospital room in order to be able to bring COVID patients, as needed, into the hospital for treatment.”

Another drug that the hospital should receive soon is called Bamlanivimab and, although it has strict guidelines, it is automatically going to be supplied to patients with co-morbidities and anyone 65 and older.  In Eads, according to Hyman, the hospital has 20 doses of this medication that is showing promising results.  Bamlanivimab may help prevent high risk patients from progressing to requiring hospitalization.

Also, Hyman urges patients to take advantage of the telehealth option of care.  Often times, a COVID patient or someone who has questions can call their medical provider and sign up for the telehealth service.  It’s available in Eads and in most any hospital across the state.  Through telehealth other prescription options like Dexamethasone and Azithromycin can be prescribed for outpatient use.

Finally, Hyman says that most hospitals also have rapid testing capabilities.  Eads is getting rapid testing in the very near future.  That, also, will be beneficial as early detection is the key to a successful recovery. 

Of course, there are also a couple of common medications that for whatever political reason cannot be accessed easily in Colorado.  The most obvious is hydroxychloroquine.  This medication has been around forever and was originally used for malaria medication.  It is now often prescribed for individuals suffering from lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.  It is very affordable and safe.  But, for many reasons, mostly political in nature, the medication is banned for use in COVID patients although in the early stages it has proven quite effective.  There are citizens in this region who have been able to order hydroxychloroquine through telemedicine sites outside of Colorado since there are many states that have not shut it down like Colorado has. 

Finally, an old drug with multiple uses in animals and humans for such conditions as scabies and deworming is called Ivermectin.  This drug is not banned but is not well known by our health professionals as it is more associated with veterinarians.  However, there has recently been a great deal of research in countries such as Brazil, Peru, Romania and Mexico.  On December 3, Dr. Chris Martensen made a video through the Peak Prosperity group entitled, “Ivermectin Works.”  That video shows large research projects where 90% to 100% recovery rates in COVID patients occurred.  It is most effective as a prophylaxis and in the early treatment of COVID; however, it has shown great success in late stage COVID and, amazingly enough, in relieving the most severe symptoms of a condition known as “long haulers” or “long Covid.” 

At this time, it can’t hurt to ask for Ivermectin to be prescribed from your health provider if you have been confirmed positive for COVID.  It isn’t banned, it’s just not well-known.  Your health provider can give you more information.

Dr. Papenfus says, “COVID is not to be taken lightly.  He emphasizes that the first week is absolutely critical in having a good outcome.  Don’t wait to test.  Go get a rapid test.  COVID can’t work well in systems with high levels of vitamin D3.  Don’t think you naturally have enough Vitamin D3 in your system.  You don’t.  Get supplied with D3 now and take 5,000IU every day.  The vitamin D that comes from sunshine is D1, so don’t assume if you are outside all the time you are safe.  You aren’t.  And don’t be a hero.  You won’t be able to ride this one out without working directly with your healthcare providers.” 

Papenfus compared COVID to being in war.  “You’ve got to have your head on a swivel and stay out of dangerous situations.  You have to be prepared to take on the enemy if it arrives at your doorstep.”

At any rate, the usual advice, “Take Tylenol and drink lots of water,” is thankfully a relic of the past.  Even in rural Colorado we now have the ability to be proactive when dealing with this insidious virus.  It is time we take charge of our own health by rethinking what we are doing.  Be proactive in taking daily supplements that will power your immune system, get outside in the fresh air and make sure you are tracking your oxygen levels, do deep breathing several times per day.   

In addition, if you are exposed or start to feel ill, go ahead and take a rapid test.  If it comes back positive, ask your health care provider if Ivermectin, Bamlanivimab, Dexamethasone or something else can be added to your regiment.  And keep taking your supplements.  If you want hydroxychloroquine there are ways to access that medication but plan ahead as more than likely it won’t be given to you in Colorado and you will have to wait for it to arrive in the mail.  Whatever you do, don’t just go home and isolate yourself and hope for the best.  Don’t go thinking you can tough it out.  This virus is not like that.  You have to go after it when it’s a baby and don’t allow it to grow into an adult.  The first 7 days are the most crucial days to stage war on COVID-19.