Local health care workers on the front lines talk about battling COVID-19

Buckley Report

The health care world has dealt with viruses in the COVID family, before. And, to work in health care is to work in an inherently dangerous environment.

“We’re exposed to HIV-AIDS, hepatitis, all these other diseases,” said James Perrott, a registered nurse in Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s Emergency Department. “It’s just part of the job.”

But this part of the job is difficult to deal with, partially because although the coronavirus has a history, COVID-19 is unlike anything else medical professionals have faced.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Director Dr. Erik Summers said his team was ready though.

“Medicine doesn’t go by a playbook, patients don’t go by a playbook. There are always details or nuances that you’re not expecting,” Summer said. “That’s what we’re trained for is to be prepared for the unexpected. As COVID progressed, we had to, for the lack of a better term, audible and change and we’ve done that.”

Each state – even each hospital – is trying different things which makes for a thousand little laboratories coming up with different answers for COVID. Summers says that can be an advantage.

“It’s only a plus if you reach out and communicate. Moses Cone (Health System) was very early with turning patients on their stomach,” and with the two hospitals sharing their knowledge and experience, that helped patients at both places, says Summers. “Based on our date in this region when you compare us, nationwide, we’re doing extremely well.”

Summers – and the others FOX8 spoke with at Wake Forest Baptist – credit that to the “team atmosphere” they’ve created there.

“It’s a great team, we all come from different walks of life,” Perrott said. “We’re working in a high-stress, high-volume environment. You never know what walks through that door – you have to be prepared for everything.”

Including becoming the patients, themselves, as several of the staff inevitably have. ICU nurse Jay Perales-Avila was one of them.

“It was something that I never felt before,” Perales-Avila says. “I did not have any respiratory symptoms but I was shivering and felt very weak. My entire back felt like it was on fire.”

Even if they have been able to avoid catching COVID, many of the Wake Forest Baptist staff have family who haven’t been so lucky.

“I had a couple of family members that were positive for the COVID virus and got admitted to the hospital,” said Sarah Foster, a respiratory therapist at Baptist. “With my knowledge, knowing what it can do, it’s terrifying.”

But Summers says it really isn’t that difficult to do your part to keep from getting – or spreading – the virus.

“Do the basics: keep your distance, wear a mask, wash you hands. It’s going to take time. I know we’d like to fix this in one day but we’ve got to work together to beat this,” he said.

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