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An intimate, first look inside Cone Health COVID Unit

Cone Health converted the Green Valley Campus to care for severely ill COVID-19 patients.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Hospitals across the country have dedicated a portion of their facilities to treat patients with coronavirus. Some facilities even use entire buildings for the effort.

That’s what Cone Health in Greensboro has done. The health care network converted the Green Valley Campus to care for severely ill COVID-19 patients. When Cone announced the temporary change in mid-April, it said it was to “help meet the anticipated increase in the volume of infected patients in the days and weeks ahead.”

We’re now getting to see what life is like in the unit that’s cared for countless people over the past five months. Cone recently led a camera crew around the unit to give people an idea of what it’s like for patients and staff who work there.

The video showed doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists consulting on cases, helping patients get exercise walking down the hallways and the lengthy process of taking off their PPE at the end of their shift.

The most emotional part of the video showed two staff members speaking with an older patient, who was set to be discharged the next day. He became emotional when thanking staff for their efforts in saving his life. He also shared his grief about recently losing his mother and sister. He also spoke about missing his wife who he hasn’t seen since he was admitted.

Nurse Erica Dodoo cares for the patients battling the coronavirus inside the hospital.

"Some of the patients, when they come in, they can not walk from that bed to that door," Dodoo said.

Dodoo said it's important for patients to get up, walk around, and fight off the virus. 

"When they're sick, they want to curl up in bed and lay down and not move and we can't do that with these patients," she said, "We have to get them moving so they can get better and go home."

Chief Nursing Officer Waqiah Ellis said the treatment patients received has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic. 

"We use heated high flow oxygen. That has been proven to help people to stay off of the ventilator," she said.

Ellis said hundreds of healthcare workers within Cone Health have stepped up to go to the frontlines of the COVID unit.

Even as healthcare workers continue to help fight the virus, Ellis said it's important for everyone to do whatever they can to help stop the spread.

"We'd like to be able to close the stores because there are so few people in our community with COVID-19, and we're here to stay open for as long as our community needs us," Ellis said.

Ellis said more than 700 people have been discharged from the Green Valley facility alone.

Safety measures to keep staff and patients safe was a high priority, according to Ellis. 

"We have an observer that watches our staff put on their PPE and we have someone to watch them take it off," Ellis said, "This ensures they do it appropriately and if there are any signs of contamination we stop right there and start over so we’re able to get it right."

Dodoo said those measures were paramount in giving healthcare workers the confidence to do their job.

"Going into this experience, I was scared because we didn’t know what COVID was. We had never experienced it. We didn’t understand it, but for me, after that first tour at Green Valley, I saw all the protocols that were in place to protect us," Dodoo said.