By Brian Tyson, MD
We heard about a virus coming out of Wuhan, China, in January of 2020. I had a feeling it was going to makes its way to the US due to all the international travel. I told my wife Fabiola: we need to get prepared, and we are going to need a plan. It was long before we started hearing of cases across the US; Washington had the first outbreak and then New York. I remember getting a call from my daughter Mahkenna’s music manager Gary Salzman, who she was supposed to fly out and see in late March for her new single.
Gary told me, “I think I have this crap!”
I replied, “How do you feel? Is it bad?”
He said, “It’s in my lungs, and I’m having a hard time breathing.”
I suggested he go to the ER and get tested to be sure and get available treatment. I had done some research from studies coming out of southern France by Dr. Didier Raoult. A study published by the Journal of Virology in 2005 showed Chloroquine was a potent inhibitor of SARS Coronavirus Infection and spread. I told him to get on hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Z-pack.
His response was that he was just at the ER, and they sent him home with no treatment and said he was not even sick enough to test him. Without that ability to test, treatment as an outpatient was withheld. It wasn’t until he became sicker and later ended up in the hospital that they paid any attention to him.
Gary died two weeks later. We were devastated as a family; the music community lost a legend, and we could not even have a funeral. I told myself that I would not allow that to happen with any of my patients. I would find a way to test people and treat people when that day comes.
It’s now March, and we see the virus all around us. We are scared. My staff is scared, my wife is scared, my parents and in-laws are scared. We have young staff members with newborn kids, others with small kids, and we ourselves have small kids and a teenager with Down’s syndrome. But we had no idea how our lives were about to change.
Now it’s mid-March, and we are seeing sick patients, but we have no tests. We have a screening tool sent out by public health that was not helpful at all to try to determine if patients may or may not have COVID-19. Upper respiratory infections are common in March. What’s the difference between COVID-19 symptoms and Influenza? Travel? We are a border town. Many people live in the town of Mexicali (population 1.5 million) and work in the Valley (190,000).
We are now screening patients outside with a pop-up tent, tables, and some chairs. MAs are scared but strong and take vitals and history from everyone in their cars. They report back to me, and we see them outside in their chairs once the registration process is done. We still had no way to test. I called the hospitals, Public Health, and the Abbott representative to see if we could get the ID kits now that the FDA had approved them because we have the machine already, and the answer was “no” across the board.
There was no way to find out who was positive and who needed treatment. We were now frustrated and scared at the same time. My wife said we should close until we can figure it all out. I was not going to give up. I called all my contacts, and out of the blue, my good friend Terrance found a Lab in Orange County, Equitox, that could get me the serology tests that would show if your IgM or IgG immunity was present.
At last, we had a tool. We also started doing Chest X-rays on all patients with respiratory symptoms. It was not long before we were able to identify the COVID 19 pattern on Chest X-ray and using the IgM, IgG approach. We started treatment on patients. We began with hydroxychloroquine 400mg by mouth twice a day on the first day, then 200mg three times a day for days 2-5. We would re-evaluate everyone in 2-3 days and see them back at 7 and 14 days to make sure they did better. We also wanted to confirm immunity for patients who then needed to go back to work.
By the end of March and April, we were now seeing 200-400 patients a day. We were asked by many essential workers to help keep their services and businesses open. We took care of the many local establishments: the Border Patrol, Calipatria and Centinela Corrections Officers, Homeland Security, Customs, Sheriff’s Department, Brawley Beef, RoGar Manufacturing, Imperial Valley Auto, ICOE, and Imperial Valley Superior Court. We also saw many cattle feed and farming seed companies and the various medical and dental offices that needed to stay open.
We knew our system was not perfect, but it was the only one we had. We revised the tents and tables into an insulated carport with mobile clinic functions implemented to have air conditioning for summer, copy machines, registration, air-flow and disinfection on a regular basis.
There was still no way to confirm patients with PCR testing due to a lack of supplies. We didn’t even have PPE.
I was called by the Public Health office and asked to stop testing because we were creating too much work for them, and we could not confirm our patients’ infections. When I asked where else we could send them for confirmation, I was told the ER. The problem with that was (as my friend Gary told me) they were not sick enough to be tested. I was told by the ERs they only had ten swabs per week from each hospital, and only those sent to the ICU were being tested.
I then got a letter from the ER Medical Director at El Centro Regional Medical Center instructing me to stop prescribing hydroxychloroquine because it would prohibit the hospitals from getting it for those who needed it. I could not believe what I was hearing. For the first time in my life as a physician, I was being told to stop saving people’s lives! My response was clear: “Give me an alternative, and I will use it; Until then, I will use whatever I have that has been shown to work.”
I have never understood the pushback on using treatments that were maybe controversial but showed promise over the ridiculous policy of “Home Quarantine for 14 days” without any treatment.
Who does that? Since when is any disease treated by quarantine alone?
We have drugs that work and we have vitamins and supplements that help; why not at least use those? Why confine others at home with known sick people? These are still questions that nobody in the public health department wants to answer. We went to the meetings at public health and asked about the PPE stockpile and were told once again that nothing was available.
During this time, my staff and I were out at the large businesses giving lectures on the virus, emphasizing how to prevent transmission and that the treatment seemed to be working if they got sick. That seemed to help set the standard for our community. Cleaning, social distancing, staying home when not working, and not going to work sick. Early evaluation if symptoms occurred and mandatory seven days off and retesting if the serology test was negative. Mandatory 14 days off if positive.
In May, we finally had two labs that were able to get us the PCR nasal swabs. That was good and bad. Good: we were able to finally confirm cases. Bad: the level of work it took to call all the patients and get the test results out and make the follow-up and treatment calls. I knew all along that the possibility of getting in trouble was there, so we had been keeping a spreadsheet with all the positive patients and the treatment plan and recovery plan. It worked out when we got a call from the State and CDC in June after months of being left alone. We found out that our center was the only place that kept that level of records, and we were chosen to be the Sentinel Site for California and CDC for the Imperial Valley. We were finally receiving validation that everything we did was worth it.
We made the news in late September and October when we started publishing our data, and people realized that we may well have seen more COVID-19 patients face-to-face than anyone in the nation. We did that and have not recorded a single death for anyone that was placed on our treatment. We did have to call EMS on two patients that presented to our Urgent Care in respiratory failure and were sent to the hospital before we could start treatment. Sadly one of those died, and for the other, we were unable to get follow-up information. As of today, for patients who received out early treatment we have over 1900 COVID-19 positive recovered patients, a 100% success rate.
This brought the call to go to Washington, DC.
The process in preparation for speaking on the steps of the US Supreme Court was intimidating. Those invited were all highly intelligent physicians, scholars, lawyers, and researchers. I felt like I was out of my league, and once again I was scared. What will they think? What if I mess up? What if I get laughed at and ridiculed? I still needed to make a statement. I still needed to tell our story.
I still needed to be heard.
Dr. Simone Gold wanted a passionate speech with facts from all of us. After our meetings in DC and the recordings we all did, I felt it was my time The fear had left me, just like it left me at the clinic in treating all the COVID-19 patients. The staff had been sick but survived. Students were sick and survived. Two of my Nurse Practitioners, both my sons and my manager’s mom with MS, all got COVID-19 and survived. That is where my speech came from. It was the buildup and resolution of fear that had us all so scared in the beginning, but now realizing there is treatment.
“We can go back to school! We can go back to work! We can go back to life! We can go back to being Americans! We will not let fear take our freedom!” I spoke on those steps.
That was a moment I will never forget. It truly was incredible. I have always wanted to do something great for my country, knowing that my grandfathers served in WW2, Vietnam, and Korea. I thought of my grandpa Tyson. My dad served in Vietnam. How scared were they? What must it have been like to have to go into an actual war? This is my war, and it’s not over.
We are still fighting the fight, and we will continue to do so. I hoped the video would be a tool that other physicians could see and hear. We need everyone to be able to see the success we had. When it was finally posted on YouTube, it was exciting, it started to go viral, and then something happened.
It was taken down!
Why? Why would you take down a video with the knowledge, research, links, and website where everyone can see what we are doing! Why? I don’t have any reason. I can’t believe that Big Tech and Government controls want to see people die. Why would you take down the message of hope? Why would you take down the message of treatment? Why do you want to continue living in fear when there are clear treatment options now?
There are multiple options. Peter McCullough and his peers published the first peer-reviewed pathway to outpatient treatment in the American Journal of Medicine, and that too was recently taken down. We had to call on Senate influence to have them re-publish it!
That should upset people all over the world.
Think about it, the world is looking to us to find a treatment or a cure, and when we do, it gets taken down? Most people would be like – WTF? I was able to channel that anger, I was able to get raw video, and we published it again and again.
We will keep publishing it over and over until it is recognized all over the world that we don’t need to be afraid anymore.
People need to know that we will survive this pandemic, just like those of the past. There is treatment available. It works when used early, and it is very effective.
We will get our voices heard because we hear the cry of those in our care. Physicians are people too; we have families and kids. We would never advocate for something we didn’t believe.
Scientists are different: they have financial motives and incentives. They have research that needs to be funded, and while they may have the best of intentions, they do not work on the frontlines. They do not care for patients; they do not have to explain the risks and benefits of treatments. They are not there when patients break down and cry when they are told they have a positive test. They don’t have to explain to a 9-year-old girl that she will not kill her parents just because she is positive.
Scientists have no skin in the game and no emotional pain when things don’t go their way. This virus has killed people and it will kill more. The question is, how many more will die unnecessarily due to not getting the available treatment?
How many will die in fear, and how many will die alone?
My final point is this: When you get sick, you do not go to the CDC or the NIH or call the FDA to get diagnosed and treated. You go to your doctor. You go to the people who have seen the disease before and know how to treat it. This virus is no different.
Brian Tyson is a board certified family physician in El Centro, California.