For more than two months, those inside Piedmont Columbus Regional and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare have seen the devastation that is COVID-19.

They have seen patients die. But they have also seen the flipside of that coin — recovery.

Bandon Dawson is the medical director of the Emergency Department at St. Francis-Emory Healthcare. He came to St. Francis from Greenville, S.C., where he was medical director of Greenville County EMS and Fire.

He has worked in tough situations.

“My wife will tell you, I am not an emotional guy,” he said. “I work in a bad situation. I don’t know if she has seen me cry in the last 15 years we have been together.”

But during this COVID-19 crisis, he came close to tears when the first COVID-19 patient was released from St. Francis-Emory Healthcare.

“… to watch somebody that came in so acutely ill, on a ventilator and you know previous reports if you were on a ventilator you had a 98-percent mortality rate,” Dawson said. “We’re seeing people walk out of this hospital who have been acutely ill. So, that’s been super rewarding.”

And that’s the good news. And it’s happening Piedmont Columbus Regional. And the reaction from those on the frontlines of this fight is the same. Sarah Thornton is a lead nurse on 10-C, the floor where many of Piedmont Columbus Regional’s COVID-19 patients are cared for.

“All of the staff lined up in the hallway and cheered for this patient as she was taken out for discharge,” Thornton said. “So, we have seen patients come off vents successfully and be discharged. Those have been awesome things to see.”

There has been so much focus on the numbers — and the death count — that people sometimes lose sight of the recovery.

Jack Rodgers is the interim director of emergency services at Piedmont Columbus Regional. And like Dawson, he has come up through the tough side of the business — emergency medicine.

“We have watched the numbers and we have since Day 1,” Rodgers said. “And the numbers show more people are getting better and going on with life. … We have known there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

In a game with so much loss — more than 1,000 deaths in Georgia — you must celebrate the wins, said Brittany Luther, the executive director of The Bradley Center.

“Having those wins, ” she said, “those mission moments and being intentional about telling each other and telling our community that people are getting well and they are going home is a very powerful message we share every day.”

Inside the Fight Against COVID-19: A six-part series

  1. A different fight: This COVID-19 battle has forced healthcare workers and institutions to do things differently. And it has stretched them.
  2. On the front lines: The fight against COVID-19 is not an easy one, as spaces are converted to accommodate more patients and hospital staff face 12-hour shifts day after day.
  3. Reluctant heroes: Not many people would put nurses, doctors and lab techs on a list of heroes, but the COVID-19 crisis has elevated those on the front lines to that status.
  4. Helping hands: Both St. Francis and Piedmont have set up ways for those who work there to get the mental health counseling and support they need during the ongoing health crisis.