Brad and Judy Miller have always been passionate about supporting Harborview Medical Center’s role in keeping our community healthy. So when COVID-19 struck, they knew they wanted to help provide testing to underserved groups in the area. But they never imagined that their own family would soon be facing COVID-19.
The Miller family has helped Harborview, which is owned by King County and operated by UW Medicine, in many ways over the years. Judy served as a volunteer patient liaison for nearly two decades, and their family dealerships — Honda of Seattle and Toyota of Seattle — have been longtime Harborview supporters. So when the urgent need for a second COVID-19 mobile testing van became clear, the Millers stepped up once again, donating funds for a mobile testing van.
With additional funds from the Toyota Motor Corporation and generous support from the broader community, the mobile testing van hit the road in May, offering free walk-up COVID-19 testing in areas such as Auburn, Kent, Rainier Beach and South King County. These locations were chosen to increase outreach to communities of color, who are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 infection and reduced access to testing and healthcare.
“We are one of the first healthcare teams that mobilized efforts to provide community testing for vulnerable populations in King County,” said Lisa Chew, MD, associate medical director of ambulatory services at Harborview Medical Center. “By having our mobile van in areas where they live, they feel much more comfortable going to those sites to get tested. It’s much more easily accessible for them.”
But not long after the van’s launch, the Millers had their own firsthand encounter with COVID-19.
In July, Brad, Judy and other family members contracted the virus. Brad went to the emergency room with a rapid heart rate and high blood pressure; Judy, who was so used to helping patients and families navigate their care, couldn’t be there with him.
“I don’t remember ever being so scared,” says Judy. “You can’t go in to give them comfort. You can’t go in to advocate for them. You just have to wait and imagine the worst.” After several harrowing days, Brad was able to return home. Despite lingering after-effects from the virus, the Millers are thankful that their symptoms weren’t as severe as they might have been.
The van continued to reach people around the region through September, and in October, it officially retired when all COVID-19 testing was transitioned over to Seattle-King County Public Health. During its time in service, the van helped Harborview test nearly 10,000 people and identified 762 COVID-positive patients, enabling them to seek treatment and better protect their families and communities.
As UW Medicine continues to play a leadership role in Washington’s pandemic response, the Millers know they’ll keep supporting Harborview’s work. “If you go to Harborview, you know you’re going to get the very best care available,” says Brad. “It’s just awe-inspiring.”