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'It's hard to decompress' | Novant Health ICU nurses share fight against coronavirus

It's been more than a month since the virus came to Jessica Walls' and Zack Matthews' hospital and they say patient numbers are steady.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — There are mixed feelings about the pace of reopening. 

Some are eager to return to business but it's a challenge for ICU doctors and nurses to treat critically ill patients.

"I think you always have that 'it can never happen to us' mentality so I don't think I expected it," said Novant Health Forsyth Medical center nurse Jessica Walls.

It's the work Walls and fellow nurse Zack Matthews were called to do but it's not getting any easier. Walls said the amount of coronavirus patients they treat remains steady.

"Things have to reopen and doing it in a safe way is definitely gonna be what's best for not overloading the healthcare system," said Walls who isn't worried about a spike in cases as reopenings continue.

They said it can be a hard journey to watch as their patients fight through the worst stages of the disease.

"Seeing patients and their families [separated], there's a lot more visitor restrictions right now and it's hard watching them go through that," said Matthews.

"[It's] a struggle day to day when we have patients that decline," said Walls.

The reward they said is when some of those patients recover.

"Just to see some of our patients get better like that, it really makes you feel like you've made a difference," said Matthews.

They've seen both outcomes now that the pandemic is in their ICU and it leaves them with little time to clear their heads.

"It's definitely hard to decompress. It's definitely one of those things where you have to turn off the news or maybe just get one update a day," said Walls.

A big part of limiting their stress is their friendship with each other. They said teamwork is also strong throughout the coronavirus unit.

"Just having someone there that you can talk over a hard call with,"  said Walls, "that understands where you're coming from is very important."

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