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Breathing a Virtual Sigh of Relief


Wonder if a storm is coming? “Ask Brenda’s lungs,” my friends suggest.

I’ve lived with severe asthma as long as I can remember. It’s exacerbated by smoke, dust mites, strong fragrances, and yes, even a change in barometric pressure.

While some people can make light of their health condition, I don’t think it’s a joking matter. Severe asthma is a serious, chronic condition.

For a long time, the severity of my asthma kept me from being the wife and mom I wanted to be. One year, it was so bad I was hospitalized 15 times. I missed one daughter’s high school graduation and the other daughter’s college graduation despite taking medications to try and control my severe asthma. As a cancer survivor, I’m also immunocompromised.

When COVID-19 hit, I was concerned.

My lungs are weak, and I knew that catching it could be dangerous. My pulmonologist agreed, and we began using telehealth for my appointments. I’ve been working with the same doctor for years and we have a good rapport. He trusts that I can take my own blood pressure and provide him an initial analysis of any symptoms.

I was relieved to have the virtual option. Sure, it saved me drive time, but beyond that, it kept me safer. I didn’t have to risk exposure by sitting in a waiting room with fellow New Yorkers as new cases continued to climb.

But you can’t phone in everything.

For example, I still need to go in and get scans periodically to verify that my cancer is still in remission. That’s non-negotiable. But it’s nice to forgo the hassles of a second trip into downtown by having the follow-up visit virtually. I’ve worked with my oncology team for a while, and I feel confident in speaking up when I think I need to be seen in person.

As we move into the next phase of the pandemic and, optimistically, life beyond it, I hope patients like me are allowed to use telehealth when it makes sense. As great as virtual visits are, they can’t be the only option. There are times when in-person care is needed, too. And I’ll be the first one to speak up and drive in.

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