'We've watched lots of patients die': Inside the COVID-19 Medical Intensive Care Unit at UNC Hospitals

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Healthcare workers in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at UNC Hospitals are fighting to save the lives of people stricken with COVID-19 and it is emotionally taxing.

Loc Culp, the hospital's patient service manager, said it weighs heavily on her.

"There's probably not a day I don't cry," she said. "I'll just sit in my office and cry and then it'll be a few minutes, and I'll walk out and it's fine."

Her staff is working around the clock to care for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

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"Everybody does 12-hour shifts," Culp said. "So, in a 12-hour shift, they're wearing PPE between nine to 11 hours each day."

Throughout September, COVID-19 numbers in North Carolina were steady or declining - but last week the state saw consecutive days with a record number of cases.

Culp's staff is bracing for the long haul.

"What's difficult is just seeing people not being able to breathe," she said.
She worries about what could happen if people start to let their guard down and ease safety precautions.

"It's real. It's very real. We've watched lots of patients die from this," Culp said.

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Collin Stage is a nurse at UNC hospitals.

The pandemic, he said, has taught him how to wear many different hats as patients were required to be isolated from their families.

"I think you only have to have one family member in the hospital to know that you want to be there right away, and now you've got the people taking care of them saying you have to stay home," he said.
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