FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT FOR CHANGE: LOCAL COVID-19 SURVIVORS INSPIRE POST-COVID CARE AT RENOWN

Renown is among the first in the country to start a new Post-COVID Care Program to help survivors heal, recover and overcome the long-lasting health effects of COVID-19

March 31, 2021 6:50 PM EDT

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Reno, Nev., March 31, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Even without family and friends crowded around the tree, a shared feast with all the trimmings, or the annual gift exchange, 89-year-old Ronald Steele and his wife, Alberta, had all they needed on Christmas Day of 2020. They never took for granted the gift of each other's presence in their cozy home at their Reno-based senior living facility.

Ronald and Alberta met in 1955 in Seattle, Wash. where Ronald served in the U.S. military. They married in 1956 and spent the first year of their life stationed together on the island of Hawaii. After his time in the service, Ronald earned his master’s degree in education and went on to work as an educator at Sacramento City College. Alberta spent her time tending to the couple's son, Ronald Steele, Jr., and later went on to establish a successful career in real estate. Northern Nevada residents since their retirement in 1987, the couple had a shared affinity for golf and volunteering.  

Life changed in an instant when the couple received unfortunate news that they both tested positive for COVID-19 on Christmas morning. Feeling unwell, Alberta went to Renown Regional Medical Center that same day and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. After experiencing symptoms, Ronald followed his wife into the hospital the following day. He was admitted into Renown’s Alternate Care Site in the Mill St. Parking structure as his symptoms were milder than his wife’s.

On Jan. 2, 2021 Ronald was released from Renown Regional and sent home with an oxygen tank to support his lungs, as he was not yet strong enough to breathe on his own. Aside from his COVID-19 diagnosis, Ronald says he was otherwise in good health.

Sadly, on Jan. 8, 2021, Alberta passed away due to complications from COVID-19, including pneumonia. She fought for her life until the very end.

Ronald and Alberta were just 13 days shy of their 65th wedding anniversary.

As devastated as he was over the tragic loss of his wife, Ronald was committed to fighting for his health for the sake of his wife and their son. However, he knew he could not do it alone. He continued suffering from a range of challenging and frightening symptoms, including having trouble breathing. He had also lost weight, faced extreme fatigue and experienced firsthand the difficulties and challenges associated with COVID-19 even after being home from the hospital.

It is for patients like Ronald Steele, that Renown Health providers today announced the new Post-COVID Care Program, designed to help survivors heal, recover and overcome the long-lasting health effects of COVID-19.

“The Post-COVID Care Program at Renown is a survivorship clinic to help people manage the physical and emotional changes experienced after treatment, with the support, expertise and compassionate care of our exceptional clinicians in one beautiful, convenient facility,” said Tony Slonim, MD, DrPH, President & CEO of Renown. “We thank Mr. Steele for reminding us that the best care is ‘person-centered care,’ an approach that addresses the new health care needs of our community and promotes health and wellness of survivors of COVID-19 and their families.”

“Pulmonary experts have come together to create the Post-COVID Care Program at Renown to help patients battling the lingering effects of the novel coronavirus,” said Chris Nicholas, FACHE, Renown South Meadows Medical Center and Renown Rehabilitation Hospital Vice President. “Renown is one of just a few healthcare systems in the country to create a Program with a dedicated team that specializes in caring for patients whose symptoms of COVID-19 persist, with no definitive explanation or treatment.”

According to the World Health Organization study, approximately 10 percent of patients who have experienced COVID-19, also experience prolonged illness. For some, symptoms may linger or recur for weeks or even months following initial recovery. This can also happen in people with mild disease. People are not infectious to others during this time.

“Some patients develop medical complications that may have lasting health effects. These patients are classified as ‘long-haulers,’ and this condition can affect people of all ages, as well as those who have experienced anywhere from mild to severe COVID symptoms. While it’s likely for long-haulers to have pre-existing conditions before contracting COVID, this is not always the case as we’ve seen with Ronald. As physicians, researchers and scientists at Renown, we are working with our patients to better understand the causes for these long-lasting symptoms, and to provide effective treatments,” says Paul Sierzenski, MD, MSHQS, CPE, FACEP, Chief Medical Officer, Acute Services.

“Battling COVID-19 can be a frightening and daunting experience for anyone,” said Dr. Farah Madhani-Lovely, lung critical care physician. “For those with pre-existing pulmonary and respiratory conditions, it can be especially taxing and puzzling. Getting past the initial infection is only half the battle, as we see these patients routinely experiencing ongoing symptoms of the virus such as shortness of breath, chest pain and fatigue for months on end. With this new Program at Renown, we are proud to offer a vital and necessary service to our community as we learn more about the effects of COVID-19 and the needs of our patients.”

Today, Ronald is no longer on oxygen and he is proud to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Now that he has recovered from his illness, he is eager to engage with the community at his senior living facility. Some of his favorite activities include beanbag baseball and bingo.

“I feel very fortunate for the amazing care I’ve received from my caregivers at Renown, as I know they have a genuine interest and concern for me and my health,” said Ronald. “My primary care provider, Meredith Ohm, APRN, called as soon as she heard the news of my wife’s passing. Thanks to Miss Ohm and her compassionate care, I was directed to the doctors at Renown’s outstanding Post-COVID Care Program to address my on-going health needs. I am overjoyed to be fully vaccinated today with the energy and spark to enjoy my favorite group activities and hobbies again.”

“It was a privilege to see Ronald defy the odds and overcome COVID-19 and an honor to play a role in his full recovery,” said Dr. William Graham, pulmonary medicine specialist at Renown. “Ronald’s determination and positive outlook were an inspiration to all of us as we watched him thrive at our new Program. His progress is truly remarkable. We’re proud to be a local destination for care for residents on a similar road to recovery who deserve the best and most innovative care for their symptoms.”

The Post-COVID Care Program is open Monday through Friday by appointment to patients following COVID-19 treatment and testing negative. The Post-COVID Care Program is located at Renown Regional Medical Center and offering both telemedicine and in-person visits.

Renown plans to expand the Program to Renown South Meadows Medical Center later this year in addition to an advanced lung-disease clinic supplementing the comprehensive pulmonary program. The expansion, as well as northern Nevada’s pulmonary destination center of excellence, is possible thanks to the generous support of Mr. Tom Dolan, a former patient of Renown’s pulmonary rehab and a former COVID patient at Renown.

“I have experienced firsthand the difficulties and challenges associated with COVID-19 even months after testing negative for the virus,” said Dolan. “Upon being released from the hospital, I relied on Renown’s Hospital at Home program to ensure I continued healing from the comfort of my home. Even though I am now COVID-free, it is comforting knowing that, if I need it, I can receive comprehensive pulmonary care at the South Meadows clinic.” 

Those interested in receiving care at the Center for Post-COVID Care at Renown are encouraged to call 775-982-5000 or visit renown.org/explore/pulmonary-medicine.    

To support local patients like Ronald and Tom, and the work done at Renown Health, a charitable, non-profit health organization, please consider giving to the Renown Health Foundation. Donations may be made through the following:

  • Make a gift at renown.org/give
  • Call Renown Health Foundation at 775-982-5545
  • Mail a check to Renown Health Foundation, 1155 Mill St., O2, Reno, NV 89502
  • Venmo: @RenownFoundation

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About Renown Health  

Renown Health is the region’s largest, locally owned and governed, not-for-profit integrated healthcare network serving Nevada, Lake Tahoe and northeast California. With a diverse workforce of more than 7,000 employees, Renown has fostered a longstanding culture of excellence, determination and innovation. The organization comprises a trauma center, two acute care hospitals, a children’s hospital, a rehabilitation hospital, a medical group and urgent care network, and the region’s largest, locally owned not-for-profit insurance company, Hometown Health. Clinical institutes include: Cancer, Heart and Vascular Heath and Neurosciences. Renown is currently enrolling participants in the world’s largest community-based genetic population health study, the Healthy Nevada Project®. For more information, visit renown.org

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Renown Health Public Relations
Renown Health
775-691-7308
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Source: Renown Health


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