When Dr. Charles Lowney got sick from the coronavirus, he made one thing clear to his family: He did not want to go to the hospital.
The 82-year-old Milton resident was sidelined in March when he and his two sons, who are also physicians, became ill with COVID-19. Both sons made a full recovery, but the elder Lowney had it much worse. There were times when they wondered if he would make it.
“He’s the hardest-working guy I know,” said Dr. Jay Lowney, 54. "He’d never been sick like this, ever,”
Dr. Mike Lowney, 38, said given the fact that they are all doctors and also COVID-19 survivors, put him and his brother in the unusual position of being able to care for their father in his home.
“It was a really unique situation," Mike said.
All three are doctors of osteopathic medicine and work at the same medical practice in Hyde Park. All three fell ill around the same time.
Mike was the first one to get sick. It started with him sneezing. He thought it might just be allergies, until he developed a fever. But it was a very mild case of COVID-19, and his symptoms went away quickly. He felt like he had the flu for a day, and then immediately got better.
Jay was next.
“My worst symptom was that I was super, super tired but I couldn’t sleep,” said Jay.
His body felt achy, but he said he never had any problems breathing. His symptoms went away after about a week.
The elder Lowney was not as lucky.
“My father was the one who took the big hit,” said Jay. “We were really worried about him.”
When the elder Lowney first got sick, he took hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. He told his sons that whatever happened, he did not want to go to the hospital.
“He told us, ‘I’d rather die at home than go to the hospital,’" said Jay.
So they turned his bedroom into a hospital room.
“We were really lucky that we were able to do that," said Mike. "We were right by his side the whole time.”
Jay said they used osteopathic manipulative therapies and an array of treatments, some of which were considered unorthodox for COVID-19 patients at the time, to help their father as he battled the disease.
They put their father on an IV containing a high dose of vitamin C, zinc, and B-complex vitamins. To help him breathe, they used a continuous positive airway pressure machine, also known as a CPAP, which is usually used to treat obstructive sleep apnea. “We had him on CPAP right away,” said Jay.
They put him in a prone position, lying on his stomach, to help open his airways and improve his breathing.
And they carried him outside so he could be in the sunshine and get fresh air.
But it was a long road to recovery for Dr. Charles Lowney. There were times his sons feared that they would have to disregard his wishes and get him to a hospital.
“He was struggling for a good three weeks," said Mike.
They kept an oxygen tank in the car in case it came to that point.
They also knew that if that happened, they would lose all contact with him and he would be alone. Jay said one of the worst things about the coronavirus pandemic is the isolation of patients from their loved ones.
“Part of the healing process, I believe is . . . having family around you,” said Jay. “The human touch, the family factor, I think that helped him as well. We were encouraging him all the time.”
“His chance of survival was pretty low, but he pulled through,” said Jay. “He never gave up.”
The elder Lowney is currently on the mend. His appetite has returned, and he can walk around again.
Now he’s looking forward to getting back to work at Lowney Medical Associates, the medical practice that he started in 1966.
“He just wants to get back to work and see his patients," Mike said.
He has been seeing some of those patients for 50 years.
“They’re all asking for him,” Mike said.