ROANOKE, Va. (WSET) — A year ago on Saturday, Carilion officials held a press conference to talk about the preparations they were making for the pandemic.
Days later, the first COVID-19 case in the area was seen.
RELATED: Carilion sees 3 positive cases of coronavirus since Thursday
Officials at the time said life at Carilion was not the same as it was a day ago or a week ago. That was March 20, 2020.
A year later, Carilion nurses spoke with ABC13 to reflect on the triumphs and troubles of the year.
Nurse Cody Peery has been working in the COVID intensive care unit the whole time
"I couldn't believe how sick they were. It was nothing like I've seen before" he said.
Perry said the patients would go from talking to them with the oxygen level fine to them being on a ventilator a couple of hours later. Carilion immediately restricted visitors as a safety measure to limit the spread of infection.
The difficult decision is just one of the emotional costs of the pandemic. For Peery, the most difficult was FaceTiming with families as their loved ones passed.
"We were on FaceTime for hours. Just holding his hand for her and telling her everything we were doing. It was really hard" he said.
He said it was the first time he'd cried at work in years. Those in the health field continued the fight through the fall and winter as cases spiked.
Peery said they went from having one unit to having three ICU units full of COVID-19 patients.
Then in December 2020, the news came that a vaccine was on its way.
RELATED: Carilion Clinic pleased with speed of vaccine rollout
"It felt like you were a ship out a sea and you started to see a beacon of light to get to shore," said Chad Alvarez Carilions Senior Director of Pharmacy.
He helped coordinate the vaccination effort. Figuring out how to store it and how to administer it in mass quantities to reach the community.
"It was challenging and joyful. For the first time, we could be proactive and not reactive. Finally, have something in our wheelhouse" he said.
Carilion said they are now down to only one covid unit, they hope people continue to take preventive steps from spreading the virus, and get the vaccine when eligible.
They also encourage folks dealing with the stress and triggers from the pandemic to get help. As well as get caught up on any regular appointments they may have postponed.