A few weeks ago, American runner Tommy Rivers Puzey, brother to Jacob Puzey (who now lives in Canmore, Alta.), was admitted to an Arizona hospital after self-isolating and struggling through pneumonia and COVID-like symptoms for a short while at home. Despite having been in the hospital for some time now, Rivers Puzey has not been given a specific diagnosis, according to a GoFundMe page set up to cover his medical bills, although since being admitted to the ICU, he has “sustained significant damage to his lungs.”
Rivers Puzey is a well-known figure in the American running community, but his most important roles are those of husband to his wife, Steph, and father to three young girls. In a series of videos posted to his Instagram page, Rivers Puzey filled in his followers and the running community on his condition, and what he’s been going through over the past month. He explains that he was running in the Grand Canyon with friend Derrick Lytle when he first started to feel sick.
“That was a pretty rough night,” he says in the video. “I didn’t think I was going to make it out of there.” Things went “from bad to worse really quick,” he says, but he adds that he was fortunate to have Lytle with him, who helped him make his way out of the canyon. After returning home, Rivers Puzey says he assumed he had contracted COVID-19, and he tried to think back to who he had been in contact with in the previous weeks to let them know that they might be infected, too. As serious as this video is, Rivers Puzey manages to keep good humour, even throwing a joke in at this point.
“Luckily, I’ve kind of been trying to self-isolate for the last two decades of my life,” he says. “So I typically don’t interact with too many people on a regular basis.” He ended up self-isolating in a private section of his home, away from Steph and his kids. “I miss my girls a lot. I still haven’t been able to hug them, and it’s been about five weeks.”
His brother, Jacob, posted on Instagram to let his followers know that Rivers Puzey is sedated and on a ventilator, and he took the opportunity to ask for help on behalf of Rivers Puzey.
“He wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for help,” Jacob wrote. “He is strong and smart and takes great pride in working to provide for his family. He has poured his heart and soul into enriching the lives of others, but he still has a mortgage, student loans and bills to pay. He isn’t working now and rent is really high in the ICU.” Jacob included a link to the GoFundMe, which currently has more than 2,000 donations and close to $124,000 fundraised for Rivers Puzey and his family.
In his own video, Rivers Puzey did ask for help, although not for himself. “If there’s an opportunity to help, if you can help, whatever that means — if it’s financial, if it’s just spreading the word, the Navajo Nation needs help out here, and the more that we can do collectively, the bigger difference it will make in people’s lives.” The Navajo are an Indigenous group based primarily in Arizona.
“It doesn’t take a lot to make differences in people’s lives,” Rivers Puzey says. Once again, here is the link to the GoFundMe page for Rivers Puzey. The creators of the page also included a link to a Navajo fundraiser, should donors want to support that cause as well.