FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- ABC11 Together joined the Fayetteville community to thank the healthcare heroes working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nurses from Cape Fear Valley Medical Center's COVID-19 unit enjoyed a brief, well-deserved respite outside the hospital walls Thursday where a hot lunch, snacks, and a basketful of handmade cards from nearby Mary McArthur Elementary School awaited them.
"They're on the frontlines, helping everybody through this pandemic we've got going on, continuously doing what they need to do to keep us safe," said Kemo Allen, General Manager of the Papa John's on Raeford Road, who delivered several boxes of pizza for the healthcare workers.
Right now, a spokesperson for Cape Fear Valley Health said there are 114 COVID patients being treated across the system with 97 of them at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Of those at the hospital in Fayetteville, 24 are in the ICU and 21 on ventilators.
"The emotional toll, the physical toll has been quite a bit," said Andre Bigford, RN Critical Care ICU. "I do believe that a lot of people who drive by the hospital don't truly understand exactly what all is going on behind the closed doors here and how sick these patients really are and what the gravity of the situation truly is."
Susan Dees, Chief Nursing Officer, said she's had to stretch her team thin to cover the persistent demand inside the COVID unit.
"It has stretched us to means and extremes that I didn't really think we could go to, to be honest," said Dees. "But every day, this team finds some way to finagle and stretch out another bed or find another nurse or get someone to come in from home and leave their family one more time to come help us take care of patients."
Like all healthcare systems, Cape Fear Valley Health is experiencing a worker shortage ahead of its October 1st deadline for staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Bigford said he's been treating patients in their 30's, 40's, and 50's and has seen more death in the last year than his 27 years combined working at Cape Fear Valley.
"Regardless of what your viewpoint is or is not about the vaccine it's probably your best defense against the disease," he said.
Dees said it's messages of thanks like they received this particular day that keep them going.
"It may make the difference for somebody coming in tomorrow to say you know what, somebody did something nice for me- I'm going back in to take care of some sick people."
'The physical toll has been quite a bit:' ABC11 Together thanks Cape Fear Valley Health workers
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