A neighborhood comes together for Duke Raleigh staff members on coronavirus frontlines

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Many in the healthcare field are on the frontlines of treating coronavirus patients. Others are managing the equipment that allows those patients to be treated safely. These workers are putting their own health and the health of their families at risk every day so they can help others.

The News & Observer is telling the stories of these “Healthcare Heroes” in a series.

If you’d like to nominate someone, you can do so here.

Here are some of those heroes.


Jennifer Harris can’t be on the frontlines with her second family at Duke Raleigh Hospital, but she wanted to make sure she did something to let them know she was thinking about them.

Harris, a program specialist for the hospital’s medicine team, is used to seeing doctors and nurses put on a strong face during trying times, but she’s close enough to them to know things can be really stressful, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking to ease some of the burden, Harris put a message on Nextdoor, the neighborhood social media app, asking if anyone in her community wanted to help the hospital staff by donating meals or sending notes of encouragement.

Her neighbors were more than willing to help.

Harris has received donations such as catered meals for doctors and nurses, snacks, caffeine and even socks with the word ‘grateful’ written on them.

“The providers that I gave them to, they’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of love and appreciation they are receiving from all of this,” Harris told The News & Observer. “It’s been overwhelming to see the help people want to give and the support to the providers on the frontline here. I’ve been receiving so many offers of help for donations. I have to go back tomorrow with even more donations. Some children even made cards to give to the doctors. It’s just been really beautiful, to see the neighborhoods come together and the community come together to support our frontline healthcare workers.”

Even if people don’t know exactly how to help, they still reach out to Harris, asking what they can do.

The feedback and support from the community has exceeded her expectations.

“It definitely has. Just seeing so many people come together and offer help at a really terrifying time we’re going through has just been pretty amazing and restores my faith in humanity because I see so much negativity right now,” Harris said. “I’m seeing death tolls and all these horrible things, so just to kind of separate myself from that and actually be involved in witnessing in real time how much good people are doing.”


A UNC Rex Healthcare nurse spends her work days potentially putting herself in direct contact with COVID-19.

The deadly virus has left hospitals and medical facilities with little personal protection equipment.

And whenever someone comes into the system’s Blue Ridge Cancer Center showing any possible signs of COVID-19, it is Clinical Nurse Supervisor Denise Wrench who goes out to evaluate their symptoms. That includes evaluating her own team.

“We need to keep everybody healthy and safe,” Wrench said.

Wrench, 53, of Four Oaks, has been a nurse for 32 years and said she has never seen anything like the coronavirus.

When she’s not evaluating people with possible symptoms she’s also making sure her staff has the personal protection equipment they need.

Every morning each department evaluates how many items — like gloves, hand sanitizer, gloves, wipes and other items — they have left to keep their patients and themselves safe.

Wrench said she reports her inventory and the medical center’s departments trade the equipment based on needs.

Wrench said she orders new equipment weekly but that doesn’t always mean they get what they need. It’s the mask, hand sanitizer and wipes that are hardest to keep in stock.

But because of Wrench’s notes and the hospital system’s management of supplies, the oncology department has yet to be without.

Wrench said she doesn’t feel as though she is a hero but just doing what she was called to do. But Wrench said her husband told her otherwise.

“He told me, ‘You’re my hero, because you go to work every day and you never look afraid or worried.”

But she admitted that as a wife, mother and daughter, she is scared of what she might bring home.

Original Article Source: News & Observer