GREENSBORO, N.C. — It sits distinctly on Green Valley Rd., a stark symbol of Greensboro's past. Inside is hallowed ground, where fluorescent-lit halls bare now-abandoned walls, closing in on decades in time.
"When we were saying farewell to the building, I think all of us wanted to remember -- it was part of our life, as well," reflected Cone Health Women's & Children's anesthesia services director Myra Kelly, CRNA, MHA.
Since 1977, the stories these walls have seen could write a memoir. Kelly was part of chapter one. Fresh out of nursing school in 1983, she wanted work-life balance.
"It didn't have (on) call. That was one of the attractive things, because I was pregnant," she said.
By then, what started as Greensboro Hospital had a new name -- Humana -- and a controversial status as the town's first hospital for profit.
"Humana was known for being the fancy hospital, I guess. You would get steak dinners, there would be flowers," Kelly remembered.
In 1990, another new name -- Women's -- brought a new mission: new life.
"It was always exciting to be with the patient who had been a fertility patient who finally got that baby after all that time," she smiles.
Within the hospital walls, people became parents, as more than 150,000 Triad babies entered the world there. The years 1990 to 2020 were a snapshot in history of the hospital's happier time.
"You never forget those things, especially with your children. I mean, this was 19 years ago," said Asheboro father Scott Lynch.
Lynch and his wife were looking for top-notch maternal care to welcome their firstborn.
"A co-worker of mine said, 'Why don't you try Women's Hospital in Greensboro?'" he explained.
He doesn't regret it. Shortly after Kalie's birth, she needed emergency treatment for severe jaundice.
"And, I'll never forget that night where the doctors came and told us she may not survive the night," he remembered.
She did. Their story is now one of many, cementing the hospital's legacy for tiny miracles -- until 2020.
In February that year, Women's Hospital packed up shop for a new location at the Cone Health Moses Cone campus nearby. The Green Valley building fell silent...but not for long. Its biography was about to write an epilogue.
"It was these news reports that were happening in Asia, and suddenly, it came upon us as, wow, this is going to be real for us," recalled Cone Health pulmonary critical care physician Brent McQuaid, MD.
McQuaid, who saw his youngest child born at Women's, never predicted leading the hospital through a global pandemic.
Ventilators moved in like uninvited guests. Negative air pressure turned the NICU into Adult Intensive Care.
"We actually had patients who were treated in this ICU who were born in Women's Hospital," he said.
In just 28 days, the former Women's Hospital converted to Greensboro's 'ground zero' for COVID-19.
"It was starting to mess with my breathing. I couldn't catch my breath," recalled local COVID-19 survivor Barbara Curtis.
Curtis was among the 4,700 patients treated at Green Valley for COVID-19.
"He (the doctor) said, 'Barbara, I want to tell you -- you got here in time,'" she said.
Curtis didn't know she'd be the last patient to leave...or that she'd be so lucky.
"A lot of them (the patients) didn't come out. And, I was right there in the midst of it, and they didn't make it out. But, I was one that did make it out, and I thank God for that. I really do," Curtis said tearfully.
Her story marked the end of an era, forever etched on hospital walls.
"We don't forget those patients and those special times," Kelly reflected.
Lynch added, "They treated us like family, and we will never, ever forget that."
Curtis noted, "I thank God for the people in that COVID hospital. God had his angels in that place. And, to look at that place, I will never forget that place."
It was a place of happiness and heartache...a haven of hope... and if its walls could talk, they'd speak the same word -- love.
"There was certainly the feeling of love for many years when people would welcome their new loved ones into the world. But, there was certainly the act of love administered here, despite fear, for our community in its last year," cried McQuaid.
And, in any story -- any legacy -- love...is the greatest theme of all.
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As for what's next, currently Cone Health is running a COVID-19 antibody clinic in the Green Valley building, but the hospital remains closed. With regard to its future, hospital representatives said the most likely option is to sell it.
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