Far southwest Virginia’s Health Wagon asks for help amid COVID surge

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 4:55 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Healthcare teams in far southwest Virginia are begging for help as hospitals and care centers are overwhelmed with COVID patients.

This week, Health Wagon CEO Dr. Teresa Owens Tyson issued a plea over email for help in the form of Nurse Practitioners, RNs, LPNs, Nursing Assistants, Medical Assistants, and Physicians, as well as volunteers and financial assistance.

Back in March, we rode along with Tyson, as she doled out vaccines to her rural, mountainous community. She even handed them out on the side of the road.

Fast forward more than six months; Tyson said the situation is still dire.

“What we’re seeing, what I’m seeing is worse of what we’ve ever seen, from my vantage point being here on the ground,” she said.

The Health Wagon supplements medical care in her community of Wise County and the surrounding region, taking care to the people.

She said right now, they are swamped - administering monoclonal antibody treatments, vaccines and tests.

“We’ve been into overtime, you know staff, we’ve had some of our staff working for three weeks straight now.”

She said she could use about 15 more people to help administer the infusions in particular - as they are trying to offload appointments local hospitals can’t get to. Tyson said about 140 people in the region are waiting for the antibody treatment, which could be vital for a population whose vaccination rate hovers just around 40 percent.

“You know we’re seeing it attack our children, and for the life of Christ, please get the vaccine for your children! I mean we’re all about God’s work here and I think God would want us to have the vaccine. We’re here in the Bible belt, but I think that God would want you to do this for your children, for your community, for your neighbor. So we’re just pleading with people, please get this vaccine.”

As monoclonal antibody treatments are doled out, Tyson worries and prays the distribution is based on need, not population.

“We have significant health care disparities here in far southwest Virginia,” she said. “Our residents already live ten to 20 years less than our counterparts on the eastern shore of Virginia. We are rural and we don’t have as many votes but these are human lives.”

Overall, the thing Tyson says is giving her hope, despite the challenges, is seeing the Appalachian community work tirelessly to take care of its own.

“At the end of the day it’s very beautiful to see, you know, all the collaboration and the love for, you know, for peoples’ fellow man, so that’s what’s so beautiful about it.”

You can learn more about the Health Wagon here.

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