Tommy Rivers Puzey, 35, known as “Tommy Rivs” on social media, has been in the fight for his life since July, when he fell ill midway through a long run in the Grand Canyon.
The accomplished ultrarunner struggled with extreme respiratory discomfort and was coughing and urinating blood. When he returned to his Flagstaff, Arizona, home he quarantined from his wife, Stephanie Puzey, and their three young daughters, fearing that he had contracted COVID-19.
Initially, Puzey resisted seeking treatment at the hospital, concerned that the regional medical facility was overwhelmed by pandemic-related needs. Flagstaff is located next to Navajo Nation, where the outbreak of COVID-19 has been severe.
“He knew he was strong and didn’t want to take a hospital bed from someone who wasn’t,” said his brother, Jacob Puzey, who lives in Canmore, Alberta, in Canada.
A COVID-19 test came back negative, but Puzey’s health continued deteriorating. Finally, at the urging of his wife, he relented and was admitted to Flagstaff Medical Center’s intensive care unit, where he posted a series of videos on Instagram, explaining what was happening. In his videos, he also talked about helping the Anasazi Foundation and asked his 229,000 followers to demand care for members of the Navajo Nation, asking, “Can we establish a culture of compassion?” Puzey’s call-to-action resulted in donations to the Navajo Nation to help with COVID-19 relief efforts.