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Austin woman with ALS shares pandemic experience

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AUSTIN, Minn. (KTTC) -- Sarah Lysne has been battling A-L-S since June of 2019. The last year and a half has been especially tough for her and her family.

"It was so hard to stay upbeat when you're so used to being around family as much as our family is," Lysne said.

ALS patients have a heightened risk from COVID-19 infection.

"At some point during the illness, all patients will develop respiratory weakness, and I think that's the part that really puts them at risk to having severe disease or possibly death," said neurologist Nathan Staff, who runs the ALS department. "It really comes down to personal comfort with your risk of developing COVID versus the obvious benefits of spending time with close family."

Many of Lysne's interactions with friends and family were online for most of the pandemic.

"We eliminated some of the holiday things, and had them at home alone," said Mary Keenan, Sarah's mother. "The phone and internet is wonderful now. Luckily we have those tools."

"I was unable to go to church, and I watched a lot of things on Skype," said Lysne.

Staff says online healthcare is a helpful tool for these patients as well.

"This is an issue that comes up even without a pandemic arising. So, patients become less and less mobile, and it becomes more difficult to leave the house. To be able to have that telehealth option is really key," said Staff.

Lysne is still taking precautions, as advised by her doctors.

"They've always just told me: be careful wherever you go and limit large groups. So, that's mostly kind of what I follow," said Lysne.

"It's gotten so much better now with everyone getting their two shots. And, we feel protected and we feel like we can resume our lives pretty much the way it was," said Keenan.

Lysne attributes her positive outlook on her condition to three things: her faith, her family, and her writing.

"You can't look at all the difficulties everyday with your disease. You need to look for all your joys in your life," said Lysne. "I have a deep spiritual faith, and my family has always been there for me."

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Noah Caplan

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