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Son Talks About 89-Year-Old Dad's Recovery From COVID-19

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

As the numbers of those infected with the coronavirus grow, so do people's fears. So it's not hard to lose sight of the positive news, and that is most people recover. One of those who has recovered is 89-year-old Eugene Campbell. He contracted the virus at the LifeCare Center nursing home in Kirkland, Wash. You may remember that that was the epicenter of the first major outbreak in the U.S. Eugene Campbell is now in satisfactory condition, but he's still in isolation, so we reached out to his son Charlie Campbell. Welcome to the program.

CHARLIE CAMPBELL: Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: I can only imagine that you are hugely relieved, but your dad is still in isolation. How is he doing?

CAMPBELL: He is doing well. It's been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for myself and my family, but I am very optimistic that, eventually, he will be reunited with my mother. Under normal circumstances, he would have been discharged by now. But, of course, these are not normal circumstances. So he's probably looking at at least another month of hospitalization.

MONTAGNE: You live in New Mexico, but you flew out to Seattle to visit your father. And then what did you find when you get there?

CAMPBELL: Well my brother and I both flew in to Everett, Wash. And we immediately went to the LifeCare Center in Kirkland, Wash. We knew that the facility had been locked down, so we knew we wouldn't be able to go in. So we just decided, well, let's just go up to the window and see if we can communicate with him via cell phone through the window. We were able to talk to my father, who didn't really understand what was going on. He did take note of all the reporters standing in the background and the cameras and seemed to like the fact that they were there, actually.

MONTAGNE: Now, I gather that you are a registered nurse - retired now. So what were your impressions of how LifeCare handled the outbreak, and also how well did they keep the families informed?

CAMPBELL: So initially, you know, the communication wasn't great, but it got better. As far as how the facility handled the whole outbreak, I can say that the nurses at the facility did the best they possibly could under the circumstances. They were very short staffed. Their job is difficult under normal circumstances, and I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for them to go through all this.

MONTAGNE: What about your mother? She and your father were living in an assisted living facility together before he was exposed to the coronavirus. How is she doing?

CAMPBELL: She is pretty lonely, but she has pretty advanced dementia, so she doesn't remember much at all. She doesn't remember where my dad is. At times, she doesn't even remember that he's still alive. So she doesn't - essentially, that's sort of a blessing in some respects because she's not worrying about him. But on the other hand, she's used to having him there by her side and gets lonely at times.

MONTAGNE: Well, by my count, and this would be the positive news, it was just five days after your father was diagnosed with COVID-19, diagnosed on March 6, that he seemed to have recovered or was on the road to recovery. Were you surprised or are you surprised at how quickly he got better?

CAMPBELL: I am surprised. It's really wonderful news, and I still can't believe it. And, you know, he pretty much doesn't have any symptoms at this point. And it's just been a blessing to know that he's going to pull through.

MONTAGNE: And that is, of course, good for everyone out here to hear.

CAMPBELL: Right.

MONTAGNE: Charlie Campbell, speaking to us from his home in Silver City, N.M., where he just returned after visiting his father, Eugene Campbell, one of the oldest survivors of COVID-19. Thank you for joining us.

CAMPBELL: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.