Head nurse of Cape Fear Health COVID-19 unit reflects on pandemic during N.C. Nurses Week

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's been a difficult few months for Lakisha Kelly and her team of 68 people helping battle COVID-19 at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center (CFVMC).

Kelly's been a nurse at the medical center for nearly 11 years. In that duration, she's never dealt with such an unpredictable virus that's brought with it a wide range of symptoms.

RELATED: Raleigh nurse says the best thing you can do for National Nurses Week is be socially responsible

"We were mostly getting respiratory; but now, we're seeing GI symptoms like diarrhea. We're seeing vomiting, we're seeing nausea," Kelly said.

As of Thursday evening, Cumberland County officials have confirmed 356 COVID-19 cases.

Kelly, who's the patient care manager of CFVMC's unit, is currently treating 34 patients, all either testing positive or awaiting results.

"It's been elderly, middle-aged, young. So, that's another thing that we're coping with is we're seeing people our own age that are really sick and dying from this," Kelly said.

Her team is made up of nurses, nursing assistants, clinical educators, resource nurses, two doctors, nurse practitioners and unit secretaries.

The long hours and lives lost has been taking an emotional toll on these men and women. They've all also had to be mindful and isolate themselves from their family in fear of bringing the virus home.

"Some of my staff, they don't even go home. They're staying elsewhere to stay away from their families, especially if they have elderly parents," Kelly added.

Kelly says she communicates with her mother and aunt on the phone and avoids meeting them in person.

"We're doing our jobs, taking care of patients, and we're still trying to protect ourselves and protect our families."

However, despite the difficult weeks behind them and moving forward, the medical workers have found comfort and support from the community through the countless donations and words of encouragement.

"We all know what we're going through, so we're supporting each other through this crisis and just trying to make sure we're educating our families and letting them know why we're doing what we're doing," Kelly said.
The staff has also found encouragement in Governor Roy Cooper's proclamation to make this week, 'North Carolina Nurses Week'. Kelly says they've been holding events at the medical center to lift their spirits and recognize their sacrifice and actions.

With Phase 1 of re-opening the state set to begin on Friday, Kelly and other health experts worry this could mean a spike in cases.

"We're kind of worried, because we wanted this to die down a little bit, but we're scared it's not going to die down once they start opening things," Kelly mentioned.

Kelly tells ABC11 that she encourages people who can stay home to continue to do so, while those who have to be out and work, continue to wear masks and wash their hands frequently.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.