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Supporting moms on the front lines one flower at a time

How do you celebrate Mother’s Day during a pandemic?

For two locally-based businesses looking to honor mothers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, the answer was flowers.

This May, Lowe’s Companies Inc., teamed up with Metrolina Greenhouses to give nearly 6,000 hanging flower baskets to nurses and other caregivers in the Charlotte area.

The gift ensured that Mother’s Day was not forgotten, even during the hectic days of COVID-19, as our team members, many of whom are mothers and grandmothers, worked diligently to treat patients. For their part, Lowe’s and its partners were humbled to honor these women with beautiful flowers they could take home to enjoy with their families.

“We wanted to show our appreciation to the healthcare workers who are out there on the front lines every day, helping to combat this virus and to keep us all safe,” said Betsy Conway, director of community relations at Lowe’s. “Many healthcare workers are not able to be with their families during this time, or they’re far away from their own moms and their families. So it was delightful to see their appreciation for just a simple act of kindness.”

The gift is part of a $1 million nationwide effort Lowe’s led to distribute about 100,000 baskets to long-term care and senior-living facilities around the country. Behind-the-scenes, Lowe’s worked with Uber to deliver baskets to various markets as part of its coronavirus response.

“Just like the situation we’re in now, it was an unprecedented effort,” Conway said. “But it was well worth the effort and time we spent to ensure we were able to bring a smile to every mother, grandmother, caregiver and healthcare worker who encountered one of our baskets.”

A quarter of the baskets were distributed in the Charlotte area. This support for mothers dovetailed with a desire to help small businesses, such as Metrolina Greenhouses, a wholesale nursery in Huntersville, North Carolina, and a Lowe’s vendor partner.

“Metrolina Greenhouses is a wonderful partner of ours,” Conway said. “We were thrilled that they could participate with us in this effort. It was part of our small business support locally to help them bring more of their employees back to their jobs. Then, they worked directly to deliver to about 71 locations in the Charlotte area.”

Headquartered in Mooresville, North Carolina, Lowe’s has taken other steps to further support its hometown and surrounding areas. Early in the pandemic, the company mobilized large product contributions of masks to Novant Health and other healthcare systems. The company also worked with local distilleries to make hand sanitizer available in bulk to support local healthcare heroes.

“We continue to look for innovative ways that we can support healthcare workers,” Conway said. “The flower baskets were a natural extension of that, and we certainly look forward to helping Novant Health provide remarkable care in the future.”

You can do your part, too, with a gift to the Novant Health Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund).

Contributions to the fund provide critical resources for those on the front lines, helping them so they can help those in need.

Join us and make your gift today.

Donate now

The meaning of Memorial Day

Reflections of retired Gen. James Amos on our national day to remember

Memorial Day is more than just a long holiday weekend. In the Novant Health family, there is perhaps no one better suited to explain its resonance and significance than Gen. James Amos, USMC, Ret.

Amos joined the Novant Health board of trustees in 2018, after an impressive 42-year military career. He served as the 35th commandant of the Marines and oversaw units at every rank from lieutenant colonel to general. He reset the Corps’ combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, shepherding the beginning of a force reduction from 241,000 Marines to 221,000. And he introduced Marine leadership to industry best practices regarding diversity and talent management.

Now, as we head into this important weekend, we’ve asked him to share what it means for our military and our community.

Many Americans confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Could you please explain why Memorial Day is sacred to active military men and women, to our veterans and to their loved ones? 

You bet I can. Memorial Day was established for Americans to take pause once a year and to remember the many sacrifices of men and women who have worn our nation’s cloth and have fought our nation’s battles over the past 244 years. As the word “memorial” tells us, it’s a day for remembering and honoring those who sacrificed their lives in battle and service.

It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers. In the Civil War, an unimaginable 620,000 soldiers were killed, a death toll massive enough to force the creation of national cemeteries. The holiday used to be called Decoration Day because many people would spend the day placing decorations and flags on the graves of fallen soldiers.

On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May.

Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day to honor and mourn those who died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.

Veterans Day, on the other hand, has a different history. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.” Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, Nov. 11 became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of war.

Could you share why you feel Memorial Day should have greater importance to our nation?

I’m kind of a softie at heart. My wife of almost 50 years calls me a mush-pot because I get choked up at most of our national holidays. But Memorial Day has a special meaning for me as it causes me to remember specific names — names of men and women I have personally served with who rest now under those white marble crosses in our military cemeteries. I’ve now buried two of my three closest friends in life, all three being fellow Marines. We entered the Marine Corps at the same time and grew up flying together over decades. Their lives, as well as their family’s lives, come to mind on Memorial Day.

And of course, the countless memorial services I’ve attended over the years, particularly since 9/11 and our combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, come to mind every Memorial Day. As I’ve grown older, many of the names have begun to fade, but the circumstances of their loss have never left me.

It’s simply our sacred duty as fellow Americans to take pause on Memorial Day.

You led Marines in multiple worldwide conflicts. Who are some of the patriots you remember on Memorial Day?

I remember well the CH-46 helicopter crew we lost on the opening night of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They crashed at 2 in the morning in the middle of a huge sandstorm, along with a squad of British Royal Marine Commandos that they were inserting behind enemy lines.

I remember taking the call in my command center at midnight about the loss of one of my attack helicopters just outside of Baghdad.

Then there was the CH-46 helicopter that went down in the Euphrates River, just south of ancient Babylon with all hands lost.

I well remember the Marines I lost on a convoy who were attacked just outside Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.

Years later, I remember the Marines I lost at the battle of Sangin, Afghanistan, one of the deadliest of our time. I remember attending the memorial services back home in Southern California for many of them, while standing by their families and loved ones.

The list is pretty long. My hope is that I don’t ever forget them as I get older. I want to remember as many of them as I can.

On 9/11, your office was destroyed by American Airlines flight 77 when it struck the Pentagon. Can you tell us how that affected you?

This was a defining time in my life. What happened on 9/11 has shaped my approach to many things since that day.

Just months before, I had moved into a newly renovated portion of the E-ring of the Pentagon. My office was on the fourth deck, overlooking the Pentagon helo pad and Arlington Cemetery. I was a young one-star [general] at the time, working as the deputy head of Marine Aviation. I was away from the building when American Airlines flight 77 was hijacked and deliberately flown into my side of the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., killing all 64 people onboard, including the five hijackers and the six air crew. In total, 184 people were killed that day at the Pentagon.

Just 35 minutes before, the airplane had taken off from Dulles and was loaded with jet fuel when it flew into the bottom three floors of the Pentagon. The impact and explosion were so severe that it drove what was left of the plane through the E and D rings, finally stopping at the C ring. My office was three windows just to the left of the point of impact. The top area and roof of the Pentagon burned for five days before the fire department was able to put out the flames.

Our entire country was in mourning. You remember it. None of us could believe that it had happened to us on our own soil.

Here is some of the irony, though:All partisan politics were set aside. Think about that. Partisans became patriots. Everybody flew American flags from the homes, their offices, on their cars. You couldn’t drive under an overpass on the interstate that wasn’t covered in American flags. We became a single body of people. We were all Americans, and we knew we’d come out of this and would see better days.

And you know what? We did, and we have. So while it was truly what I call “the worst of times,” it also became the best of times. Our nation came together. Like the Bible says, “We were in one accord.”

Marines have a proud history of leadership. What are some leadership lessons that all Americans can apply during this worldwide pandemic?

Great question. We need to remember who we are as a country and remember our history. We are overcomers. It’s time to be positive.

Never doubt that we will figure this COVID-19 matter out. While it’s a tough nut to crack, never doubt our ability to crack it.

When you think of all that our nation has been through in its 244 years, we have to believe in ourselves. We can do this.

Focus on what’s important, not the fear of the unknown. Do what’s right in taking care of your health and the health of your loved ones.

Lastly, if you have the wherewithal to help in any way, then do it. It can be financially or materially — just do it.

As our country suffers the loss of more than 90,000 Americans from COVID-19, what message would you like to share with “team aubergine” at Novant Health?

You know, Americans have always applied the term “hero” and “heroes” to our military, our police and our firefighters. I think that we’re seeing a whole new generation of heroes emerge out of the COVID-19 fight. You can’t look at national news in the evening or read the newspapers or scan the internet without reading about our healthcare workers — all of them, from doctors and nurses and physician assistants, to the team members who clean the rooms and ensure that all is sanitary.

This generation of healthcare workers has discovered its true grit. They’ve faced the impossible head on. They’ve stared down death and have overcome. While it’s been terrible, I predict that these men and women will rise from all that they’ve seen and experienced as more dedicated professionals. They have all been tried in the crucible of life and death, and they are stronger for it.

These ladies and gentlemen — selfless in all that they are now required to do — are today’s real heroes.

While the political climate in Washington now remains as partisan as I have ever seen it, we are seeing the goodness of our country begin to shine. Folks are coming forward to help in any way they can. Industry and the scientific communities are as energized as I’ve seen in decades. We’re going to get through this, and we’ll do it as an American people.

And similar to the tragedy of 9/11, while these are clearly the worst of times, I would argue that, in many ways, they will be viewed in hindsight as the best of times because the will and strength of the American people will have defeated the COVID-19 virus.

We are overcomers!

Finding a path forward

How Sarah Farmer has found resilience and hope in the wake of tragedy

Around Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, most people know Sarah Farmer.

She’s a local — born and raised in Brunswick — and a nurse. When Brunswick County natives come to the hospital, they will often ask for her. Even though she is removed from day-to-day patient care now that she’s the hospital’s manager of accreditation and clinical regulatory, she still makes her own rounds, visiting friends and other members of the community.

“We may not be related, but it still feels like family,” she said.

And family is everything to Farmer, which makes the stories she’s begun to share quietly with individuals and small groups all the more difficult to hear.

Over the past decade, behavioral health issues have had significant effects on Farmer’s family, taking the lives of both of her children. Sometimes she can share these intimate details of loss without crying. Sometimes she struggles to hold back the tears. But she continues to share in the hopes that what happened to her family won’t happen to another.

“I don’t want any other family to go through what we went through, to feel like they just don’t have a way out or can’t find help,” Farmer explained. “This disease — it doesn’t just affect one person. It affects their entire family.”

Farmer’s story is an important one, like many others, and now is the time to spotlight them: May is Mental Health Awareness Month. And although the COVID-19 pandemic has come to dominate healthcare conversations, behavioral and mental health issues continue to impact families like Farmer’s every day.

Across the country, 1 in 7 adults have a mental health condition of some kind. More than one-quarter of adults experience some type of behavioral health disorder in a given year. Brunswick County reported 162 heroin overdoses and 28 deaths from January to June of 2019. At the same time, the county has one mental healthcare provider for every 1,310 residents, while the national average is 490 to 1.

The pandemic is making matters worse. Almost half of Americans say the crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. At the same time, a federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered an increase of more than 1,000% in April, compared to the same time last year.

In 2019, Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation embarked on a campaign to address those issues. The goal is to raise $3.5 million to increase services and access to behavioral health treatment and resources, including expanding the hospital’s emergency department to include additional resources for behavioral health patients; creating a comprehensive behavioral health outreach network across the county; incorporating telemedicine into local schools to give children access to mental health resources; and supporting education programs on prevention and treatment.

The campaign is called A Path Forward, a name that resonated with Farmer.

“When the foundation decided on the name, I remember being so excited because that’s truly what this journey has been for me, a path forward,” she said. “I wanted to spotlight the need in the area for assistance and how Novant Health is stepping up to help provide for that need. I just wanted to do anything I could to help.”

While Farmer shares her story willingly with those who need to hear it, she doesn’t make a habit of looking back.

“We talk a lot about resilience at Novant Health,” she said. “One of the things I feel resilience means is the ability to move in a positive direction. Adversity does not have to take you down. It’s important that we rise up and move forward because nobody is going to benefit if we don’t. And from every horrible thing that happens, we need to try to pull some good.”

For Farmer, the good has come in the form of stronger community connections, deeper relationships with her three granddaughters and the ability to help those around her.

“If we put resources out there where people can see the light at the end of the tunnel, they’re going to go through it. But if they can’t see it or find help, they may not get out of bed,” she said.

These days, Farmer thinks a lot about the impact of COVID-19 on behavioral and mental health. She thinks about her healthcare colleagues who have been on the front lines. She thinks about the children who lost the remainder of their school year and the associated rites of passage — graduation, prom, college visits. She thinks about the fact that she can’t hug people, and Farmer is definitely a hugger.

“When I’m out in public, I don’t meet many strangers. I never have,” she said.

All of that reinforces the importance of continuing her work now, when the need is greater than ever before.

“You will be affected by this pandemic in some way,” Farmer said. “Let’s all come together and work on fixing it.”

You can do your part, too.

When you contribute to our campaign, A Path Forward, you’re helping expand access to lifesaving behavioral health services in the Brunswick community.

We hope you’ll consider a donation of any amount today.

Donate now

Making #CLTStrong

Caroline Elliott is on a mission to feed healthcare workers on the front lines

Since the start of the pandemic, Caroline Elliott has raised more than $85,000 to feed front-line workers in the fight against COVID-19. It’s a campaign that has taken on a life of its own since its launch back in March, gaining momentum, attracting volunteers and making an impact.

The first week in May, it also landed her in the Oval Office of the White House, in a group of her fellow nurses, listening to President Donald Trump sing their collective praises in celebration of National Nurses Day.

“It was wild. It was kind of an out-of-body experience,” Elliott said. “It’s such an honor to be a nurse. The fact that I’m considered in the same category as so many people I’ve met who have these incredible stories is just mind-blowing to me. I’m doing what I can, and that’s important. But as I kept saying over and over at the White House, I definitely don’t deserve this.”

The front-line workers she’s been feeding, as well as the restaurants she’s been able to support in the process, would beg to differ.

Elliott is a fertility nurse. She lives in Charlotte but works remotely for a clinic in Washington, D.C. She is not on the front lines, but she has friends and colleagues who are.

“That’s what sparked my initial urge to do something. I just started to think, ‘What can I do to help?”’ Elliott said.

One of her friends on the West Coast had purchased bagels and coffee for a local hospital, and Elliott decided to do something similar. Healthcare workers need to eat to do their jobs. With cafeterias and restaurants shut down, they have to bring food from home or rely on vending machines with limited options. Elliott thought she could take that worry off their plate, while helping them eat well throughout their shifts.

At the same time, local restaurants needed business as the state-mandated lockdown forced them to close their doors and lay off workers. So Elliott decided to try a campaign that would pull double duty: She’d raise money to buy food from local restaurants, giving them a much-needed revenue boost. Then, she would donate that food to front-line medical workers at facilities across the Charlotte region.

She started out taking donations via Venmo. Within 24 hours, she’d raised $8,000.

“I quickly booked some lunches and some dinners, and it took off from there,” Elliott said. “People heard my story and spread the word. It’s been kind of a whirlwind. We’ve raised a lot of money, had some fun partnerships and worked with some generous, gracious people.”

Those people have given life to the campaign, now known as #CLTStrong, and its mission even when Elliott couldn’t. On the day of her first delivery back in March, she found out she’d been exposed to the coronavirus.

“I was heartbroken,” Elliott said.

Soon, her husband, Frank, tested positive for COVID-19, and while Elliott was never officially tested, she fell ill soon after.

“We had to call on our friends and family and strangers to do our deliveries. Now it’s all strangers — people I’ve never met. That’s one thing I’m really grateful for,” Elliott said. “It’s just complete strangers coming out of the woodwork and wanting to do something to help. Nobody has to do anything, but they are.”

Elliott put herself on self-quarantine for six weeks and relied on the generosity of volunteers to continue deliveries. Local businesses, such as jewelry maker Twine & Twig and Glory Days Apparel, have joined the effort to raise funds. Young Plantations filled her car with 600 bags of cookies.

Those donations have gone out across the healthcare community in Charlotte, including Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. Alex Funderburg, chair of the Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation board of directors, has become one of her champions, and the entire team at Presbyterian Medical Center has been tremendously grateful for the support #CLTStrong has been able to provide.

“Caroline knew a lot of these workers were facing tough hours and putting themselves in harm’s way,” Funderburg said. “Now, the campaign has served thousands of meals to our healthcare workers, and it’s been an entirely grassroots effort.”

At the same time, the money she’s raised has provided critical support for local restaurants. One restaurant owner told her he was able to hire back one of his employees, knowing that a big order was coming from #CLTStrong.

“Now I’m learning about which restaurants really need the help right now, and we’re doing our best to help those places out,” she said.

Even as we edge our way into a new and less restrictive normal, Elliott plans to continue this work, providing meals, helping restaurants and collaborating with others in the community. It’s not her job, but it is part of what being a nurse means to her.

“When I was a pediatric nurse, there were so many nights when I lay in bed with patients and scratched their backs to help them go to sleep. As nurses, we’re constantly stepping in to do whatever is needed to help,” Elliott said. “Throughout all of this, I have not heard one person complain. Everybody is just so eager to get in there and do what they can do.”

She’s seen that same resiliency throughout the broader Charlotte community, as well.

“Everyone has come together. It’s been pretty amazing,” she said.

You can do your part to support front-line healthcare workers with a donation to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund).

The fund provides critical resources for those workers so they can focus on the important work of helping people and saving lives.

Join us and make your gift today.

Donate now

On a mission to make a difference

When Michelle Strider saw nurses in action, she knew the course of her life had changed forever

It all started when her brother was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer most common among small children. At the time, she was 14. He was 6.

She had thought about a career in medicine before all of that, in the way kids do when they consider ideal future careers. She thought she’d go to medical school and become a doctor. But the two and a half years she spent in and out of the hospital with her brother changed everything.

“The thing that really touched me was just the difference that a caring nurse could make. We would comment on the people who would do little things like use a flashlight when they entered his room at night to take vital signs, rather than flipping on the overhead light,” Strider recalled. “While I still left the hospital with a lot of respect for physicians, it was really the impact I saw the nurses make that stayed with me.”

So Strider became one. She spent time in the cardiac unit and then in the ICU, working at the bedside and emulating the nurses she observed so many years ago. Then, she moved into leadership roles, focusing on projects related to quality. That work resonated, presenting her with an opportunity to change processes to protect patients and team members. Now, she’s the senior director of clinical excellence at Novant Health UVA Health System, working across the system’s three hospitals.

“My everyday work is reviewing processes to make sure that the care we provide is as safe as possible for our team members and our patients. We do proactive risk analyses to make sure our processes are safe. We work with leaders and team members on preventing infection. We work on reducing preventable readmissions. It’s a lot of collaboration,” Strider said.

It’s the kind of work that’s critical in a normal healthcare environment. In a pandemic, the stakes only get higher, and that presented Strider with a new opportunity. As the COVID-19 crisis began to take shape, Novant Health UVA Health System CEO Al Pilong Jr. tapped Strider to co-lead its COVID-19 command center.

“That role is reviewing all clinical care practices that need to be created around COVID-19. So, lots of meetings around what types of masks need to be worn in what types of situations, daily meetings about personal protective equipment to make sure our team members have what they need, daily meetings around processes of cleaning rooms and transferring patients,” Strider said.

“It’s really an honor to be able to advocate for those who are on the front lines,” she said.

“You see these heartbreaking stories in other states where nurses are practicing in trash bags, and the fact that our team members have never had to experience that — and will not have to experience that — is something I’m so proud of for our system.”

The result is remarkable healthcare that is producing some incredible stories — like the one about the very first COVID patient admitted to Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center who was recently released, 52 days after he arrived.

“We were able to walk him out and just the joy on the team members’ faces was pretty significant,” Strider said. “It’s not routine. It will never be routine. But it seems like it’s hitting a stride now, where team members are stepping up each and every day. Seeing their resiliency has been pretty impactful.”

It’s also given her the opportunity to reflect on her career in nursing and how she’s lived up to the example set by those nurses in her brother’s hospital room all those years ago.

“There are times I miss providing that bedside care. And then I think about our team members and our patients, and it’s just a reminder that every decision we make impacts their safety and helps make them a little bit safer. I think that’s what really grounds me,” Strider said. “They deserve to get the very best right now. And team members need to have someone in their corner. Sometimes it feels like you’ve spent 900 days talking about masking, and then you realize, we’ve got to go over this and go over it again and keep going over it because we have people who depend on us to be safe.”

Some of those people live in Strider’s home. Her husband is a nurse on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, and their daughter is just 11 years old. “We’ve been very fortunate that everybody’s safe and healthy, and we use the same precautions at home that we teach our other healthcare workers to use,” Strider said.

Her husband leaves his work clothes in the garage when he comes home after work and heads straight into the shower. The family has maintained a social distance from both Strider’s parents and her husband’s. And for a few recent birthdays in the household, they limited themselves to celebrations via videoconference.

They are following the process, taking the necessary steps and being safe. Still, it’s a challenging time, and Strider finds herself focusing on resiliency.

“We talk a lot in the Novant Health UVA Health System about the eight habits of resilient leaders, and some of those are very effective ways to reset your mentality: Stay off social media, go to bed early, get outside,” Strider said. “I think that really helps, and that’s some of what I would encourage people to do is take a step back from it and take precautions and work on your own resiliency.”

You can play a role in the resiliency of the Novant Health UVA Health System by ensuring they don’t have to worry about basic necessities in this time of crisis.

A contribution to the Novant Health Hope for Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID -19 Disaster Relief Fund) goes a long way toward providing for those who are on the front lines of the pandemic.

Do your part and make a gift today.

Donate now

Taking action on the front lines of COVID-19

Melissa Morin’s energy is her superpower in the fight against a global pandemic

Melissa Morin doesn’t like to sit still. Over the course of her career in healthcare, that energy has been her signature, her specialty and her superpower.

She started out after high school as a volunteer with a local rescue squad in Manassas, Virginia. She spent some time as a paramedic. Then, she joined the emergency room at Novant Health Prince William Medical Center as a nursing technician. From the beginning, she was hooked.

“I got the bug. This was a fit. This was what my calling was going to be,” said Morin, now a nurse manager in the Emergency Services Department at Prince William Medical Center. “I have a lot of energy. I don’t really sit still well, and I like to fix things. When people are in crisis, they come to the hospital seeking help, and I like being part of the team that says, ‘This is what we’ve got to do to fix you.’”

Solving those problems has become more difficult in recent weeks, as the COVID-19 crisis has taken hold in Manassas and surrounding communities.

“It’s been a challenge only because these are uncharted waters. We’ve not had to deal with anything on this scale,” she said.

But Morin and her team have risen to the challenge from day one.

“In the early days, we walked the unit, figuring out what we would need if we had a huge surge of patients,” Morin said. “We started pre-planning at the very beginning.”

Those walks through the unit continue even now, along with regular meetings to share updates, to ask about needs and to solicit new ideas from the team to streamline processes or operations.

“We want to hear what our team members have to say,” Morin said. “We try very hard to get them involved, and everyone from charge nurses to technicians are sending us emails and leaving notes with ideas about what we could try. Some things work really well, and if they don’t, we try something else.”

They’re all vested in the work because they understand the role the emergency department plays in the health of the rest of the hospital.

“We are the line of defense to hold infections from getting upstairs to the rest of the facility, or from going home to the rest of your family,” Morin said. “We have places to have you shower before you leave. We’re telling people to bring an extra pair of shoes — anything they need to feel comfortable to go home.”

The community has done its part, too, Morin said.

“Every day we have food. There are people who are coming to the door of the hospital giving us boxes of unopened gloves,” she said. “Our community really has rallied around us on this.”

There have been other wins for the team, like the patient who was on a ventilator for 33 days and recovered.

“He was high-fiving people on his way out the door, thanking people for saving his life,” Morin said. “He was one of our great success stories.”

Those moments help with morale and positivity, which is one of Morin’s strengths. But she acknowledges that’s been hard in the midst of COVID-19.

“I am pretty well known to be the positive, Pollyanna kind of person. You throw in that extra spice of an international pandemic, and it definitely gives you a challenge. But you’ve got to stay positive,” Morin said. “There are some days that are more of a challenge than others, but I have a phenomenal team of assistant nurse managers, and we take it as a group approach.”

That’s especially important on the difficult days. The emergency room has implemented a no-visitation policy, which holds true no matter why you have to visit the hospital. People are still having heart attacks or other life-ending or life-altering diseases, and Morin said it’s been hard to tell families that they will be limited in how they say goodbye.

“There are people whose families are afraid to come into the facility because of COVID or aren’t able to get to us because public transportation’s not running,” Morin said. “We do have patients who pass away. Nobody should have to die by themselves, but it does happen, and it’s happened more frequently than I would like.”

Slowly, the hospital is getting back to normal, as the world around Prince William Medical Center reopens, Morin said. Throughout that process, one thing will remain the same.

“Taking care of patients will not change regardless of what the influences are around it, and we do a really good job of it here,” Morin said. “The nursing staff is fantastic. Our senior executive team is supportive, and our community deserves to have the best care.”

Just as our healthcare workers are giving us the most remarkable care, we need to ensure they have the resources they need now.

You can help, with a gift to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund).

Join us and help those on the front lines of an unprecedented battle.

Donate now

Charting a new path forward

In the midst of a pandemic, priorities have shifted, but this community’s generosity remains the same

Back in February, well before the COVID-19 pandemic created our strange, new reality, Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation hosted a disco party.

More than 250 people turned out, decked out in bell bottoms and sequins, all in support of Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation’s A Path Forward campaign, which is raising funds to support behavioral health initiatives and programs in the community. In total, the event raised over $40,000, said Cindy Cheatham, development program manager for Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation.

“It was wonderful, so fun and such a huge success,” Cheatham said.

Then came COVID-19.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things in and around Brunswick Medical Center. There are fewer people around the hospital every day, with elective procedures canceled and nonessential staff working from home. Telemedicine visits and face masks are the new normal. Any in-person events have been canceled, and fundraising priorities have shifted to support the hospital’s front-line workers through the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund.

But one thing hasn’t changed: the community’s desire to support Brunswick Medical Center, any way they can.

Cheatham tells the story of a local church that took up an offering recently, which it used to purchase 300 meals from Hwy 55. The donation provided enough hot dogs and hamburgers to feed the entire hospital.

“So many people are buying food for our team, and restaurants have been sending meals. They’re suffering, too, and their willingness to donate to those on the front lines has been a testament to the generosity of our small community,” Cheatham said.

Shelbourn Stevens, president of Brunswick Medical Center, has seen a similar outpouring of support as the community rallies behind healthcare workers.

One community member with a 3D printer at home has been making face shields and delivering them to the hospital as he can, Stevens said. In addition, the volunteer team at the hospital has been routinely making cards and other gifts to thank front-line workers.

“One day, they went out and put them on the windows and windshields of team members’ cars. As people got off their shift, they found a note thanking them for being there,” Stevens said. “I had folks coming up to me after the fact with tears in their eyes. It’s those little gestures that go a long way.”

At the same time, many healthcare workers need more than thanks during this time. Some have spouses who have lost jobs. Others are struggling to find affordable child care or to find temporary lodging to avoid exposing their family members to coronavirus. That’s why Stevens and Cheatham have prioritized raising funds for the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund above all else. The fund was created to ensure front-line healthcare workers can pay for what they need now so they can focus on the important work of helping patients and saving lives.

“We call them our ‘healthcare heroes.’ They are the ones fighting the battles to keep us all well, and this community wants to help,” Cheatham said.

The community has stepped up to support its healthcare workers before, in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence back in 2018. And it will happen again now, Stevens said.

“As a hospital team and as a community, we’re going to rally together and get through this. We continue to grow to meet the needs of the community, and this pandemic is not going to slow us down,” Stevens said. “We’ve proven time and again we’re stronger than that, and we’re going to be even stronger on the other side of this.”

While the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund remains the priority in the immediate future, the Brunswick Medical Center Foundation also believes the focus on behavioral health — the purpose behind the disco party just a few months ago — should not be lost. Brunswick Medical Center continues to offer virtual counseling sessions, and Cheatham said the need for increased access to that care will be more important after the pandemic than ever before.

“There are a lot of people out there who are right on the edge, and who knows what kind of job loss or financial loss has heightened those anxieties and those pressures,” Cheatham said. “On the other side of this, a lot of people are going to see the need for behavioral health services, and we want to be there to help”

You can help, too, by making a contribution

Either to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund or to support the A Path Forward campaign to increase access to behavioral health services throughout the community. More now than ever, our community must come together, for our front-line healthcare workers and each other.

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‘Our humanity is being challenged’

Alex Funderburg on the COVID-19 crisis and the community’s inspiring show of support

A decade before the COVID-19 crisis, Alex Funderburg, chair of the board for the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation, found himself on the front lines of a different and much more personal healthcare battle.

In 2009, when his daughter was 11 years old, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a condition that causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Funderburg started researching everything he could, learning about treatment options and the best places for care. In the process, he learned a lot about the world of healthcare. He saw challenges, as well as opportunities for improvement, and he wanted to help.

“A year after my daughter was diagnosed, she was getting better, and out of gratitude, I asked her doctor what I could do to get more involved. I ultimately was asked to rebuild the Carolinas Chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in the midst of the Great Recession,” Funderburg said.

It wasn’t his job, but it became his passion.

“The power of philanthropy — not just the power of giving, but the gratitude that comes when people rally and support a cause — really moved me,” Funderburg said. “It made me want to become more involved locally. With Novant Health, their focus on healthcare quality aligned perfectly with my interests.”

That rebuilding experience gave Funderburg the opportunity to pursue a philanthropic mission in a time of economic crisis — experience that is proving particularly valuable now, as Funderburg shepherds the board through an unprecedented time in healthcare.

“In rebuilding the chapter, I went way outside my comfort zone. I recruited board members. I called on individuals and corporations to build support,” Funderburg said. “The sense of purpose and the mission orientation was something I’d never experienced before in my professional life.”

He’s seeing it again now, as the COVID-19 crisis has taken hold and the community around Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center has risen up to support healthcare workers on the front lines, Funderburg said.

In April, Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation launched a fundraising campaign with the goal of matching up to $1 million of unrestricted funds to support the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund). So far, the campaign has raised almost $1 million from donors across the Charlotte community and beyond to fund critical resources, such as rent and child care assistance for healthcare workers in need. Following an initiative begun by fellow board member Emily Harry, Funderburg teamed up with several other board members to launch ribbon campaigns in their respective neighborhoods, asking their neighbors to donate to the fund and then hang purple ribbons in their yards as a show of support.

“I would say virtually every member of my block has donated, and it’s spreading throughout a number of neighborhoods,” he said. “Just like when I organized my first walk for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, people come out of the woodwork to do incredible things, and it’s always inspiring. I just spoke with a couple who will be launching a ribbon campaign in their subdivision of over 1,400 homes.”

That inspiration is coming from all across Charlotte. Funderburg has seen a local nurse put together a GoFundMe campaign to purchase food for healthcare workers from local restaurants.

“They’ve served thousands of meals to our healthcare workers, and it’s been an entirely grassroots effort,” he said.

Students at Charlotte Latin School, with the help of a few parents, have designed and are producing face shields for medical workers. Brewers are switching from brewing beer to making hand sanitizer. There’s been a rebirth of chalk art to share messages of love and support, Funderburg said.

The country is now beginning to open up, but that doesn’t mean those efforts should stop. Healthcare workers will continue to be on the front lines, testing, treating and managing cases of COVID-19. And many of them will need support to do that work. Some have spouses who have lost jobs, putting them in financial hardship. Some need access to child care. Some can’t risk taking the virus home to immunocompromised family members and need temporary lodging away from home.

The current circumstance facing each front-line healthcare worker calls to mind that of a soldier, Funderburg said, someone putting him or herself at risk in support of the greater good.

“Unlike a soldier, I don’t think they signed up for what they’re in the middle of right now, but like a soldier, they’re stepping up and answering the call. And they deserve all of our support,” he said. “Our humanity is being fundamentally challenged right now. This disease is forcing us apart from each other. And figuring out ways to stay connected, to show that humanity to each other, that gratitude, that’s so important right now.”

You can do your part, too, by making a gift to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund (formerly the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund).

It’s an opportunity to make a difference for those doing everything they can to bring our community and our world out of crisis. And a little goes a long way.

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The story of ‘sweet baby Luke’

After the most difficult day of their lives, this family is on a mission to support Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital

His name was Luke, but more often than not, his family didn’t call him that. The 1-year-old boy with the infectious smile and joyful personality was better known as “sweet baby Luke.”

“We would call him that because he was so wonderful and sweet all the time. He loved people and dogs and playing with his brother. He was an absolute joy,” said Arliss Day, Luke’s mother and store manager of the Kendra Scott jewelry store in SouthPark Mall.

Then, one day in December of 2019, Luke had to be rushed to the emergency room at Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center. One moment, he had been laughing and dancing; the next, Day and her family were watching Luke fight for his life.

“He was happy and healthy,” Day said. “As we anxiously waited in the ER to figure out what was going on, we had no idea we would later be saying goodbye to Luke.”

The medical team admitted him immediately, working feverishly to determine what was causing Luke’s rapid and devastating decline.

“He passed away in my arms, and they revived him,” Day said. “The entire emergency room team was at the door with us. They were doing everything in their power to help us, but nobody knew what was wrong.”

Soon, the family was transferred by ambulance to Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital Emergency Department, where they met Dr. Emily Nazarian and the team of medical professionals that would be there with them through the most difficult day of their lives.

“We knew they truly loved Luke. They asked what he liked to do, what his personality was, and we appreciated that they never gave us false hope,” Day said. “They were very upfront with what was happening, but they delivered it in such a sincere way and they were there for us as much as possible.”

The doctors were eventually able to pinpoint what was happening to Luke: He had volvulus, a twisting of the intestines more common and treatable in newborns. It is rare in children Luke’s age, and four hours after he was rushed to the ER, it took his life.

“We never had to leave Luke’s side. I was able to stand over the hospital crib and hold his hand and kiss his head. They could have easily sent me out to the waiting room, but they never did. They let me continue to love on him,” Day said.

The past few months have been hard, to say the least, but Day has found bright spots. Kendra Scott gave her three months off after Luke passed away, and she threw a fundraiser to help cover some of the family’s expenses. Day and her husband have a 3-year-old son named Adam, and as he adjusts to his new reality, he has taken to making LEGO creations to leave next to Luke’s grave every time the family visits.

The family is also turning its energy toward giving back. Day and her husband , Kelvin, have started the Luke Day Foundation to help other families who lose a child unexpectedly. And they want to continue to honor and recognize the staff at Hemby Children’s Hospital.

That work began in January. Day was eager to show her support and gratitude to Dr. Navarian and all the nurses who had cared for Luke and her family, so she worked with her team at Kendra Scott to orchestrate a delivery of lunches and jewelry, giving each team member in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) a piece from the Kendra Scott collection.

“It was a bittersweet day. I didn’t know if I would make it through the doors of the PICU,” Day said. “When we showed up, we saw so many familiar faces. They told us this wasn’t necessary, and we said, ‘Yes, this isn’t even enough.’”

Kendra Scott has since made Hemby Children’s Hospital part of the Kendra Cares program, which brings the company’s signature Color Bar to pediatric hospitals to allow patients and families to design their own complimentary pieces of jewelry. And, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Day is planning a return trip to the hospital to deliver lunch and Kendra Scott face masks during Nursing Team Member Week.

“I think about them a lot. I pray. They’re the true heroes in it all, and I know it’s not easy for them. They all have families of their own, as well. Being able to balance that, it’s really hard, and they are put into such difficult situations. My heart has gone out to them. You worry about them,” she said.

Day has also been working with Kendra Scott’s nonprofit partners to orchestrate other events to benefit the team at Presbyterian Medical Center. Typically, the Kendra Scott location in SouthPark Mall hosts five philanthropic events per week. With the pandemic, those events have all been canceled, but Day has been working with organizers to take them from in-person to virtual and to have the proceeds benefit front-line healthcare workers.

“We have a lot of things in the works, and hopefully we can gear it all toward the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Foundation and have a big give after all of this,” Day said. “The team at Hemby made the most horrible situation that anyone could possibly go through bearable for me and my family. They’re there for a reason. We look back, and we look at Novant Health, and we’re just thankful.”

If you’d like to show your support to those on the front lines.

Consider a gift to the Novant Health COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund, which provides essential healthcare workers with the resources they need now so they can focus on the important work of saving lives. It’s the work they do every day, but the work we all need more now than ever.

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‘We’re beating this’

How Cindy Little and her team have been a force for calm amid COVID-19

It sounded like a burglar alarm.

Cindy Little was at her former church in Charleston, South Carolina, when she heard it. She wasn’t sure where it was coming from, but she knew something was up.

Then, she saw the defibrillator cabinet. The door was open. Someone needed medical help, and they needed it fast.

Little is a nurse — one who has spent the bulk of her career in critical care — and immediately sprang into action. She started looking around and found a man lying on the church steps. Not only was he having a heart attack, but he’d fallen backward and suffered a head injury, as well. Little rushed to his side and started administering emergency care until an ambulance arrived. Sure enough, the man survived.

“When those things happen, you just go into nurse mode,” Little said.

That’s just one of many stories Little has collected in her 36 years as a nurse, which has since brought her to Charlotte. She is now nurse manager for Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit and Rapid Response Team. In recent weeks, she’s led her team through their toughest challenge yet: COVID-19.

It’s been a hectic time with plenty of highs and lows. The influx was swift and daunting. Information was changing by the day, but Little’s team stayed focused.

“It almost got to be overwhelming,” Little said. “It got to the edge there. We had to do a lot of work to support each other, and that’s what we did.”

Together, the team took it day by day. They reviewed the latest verified information and kept track of accomplishments, like when patients stabilized and transferred. Soon, they had empty beds.

“We started looking for any kind of celebration that said we were conquering this. It probably took us the first four weeks before we could get to that place where we were making headway and we were adjusting to this new norm.” 

By the second month, the unit started going days without a new coronavirus admission.

“We didn’t want to say it out loud,” Little said. “We wanted to whisper it at first.”

Through it all, Little has remained a stabilizing presence. Whether she’s talking with nurses about their fears or answering families’ questions in a slow, thoughtful manner, experience has given her poise.

“It does provide this calming environment for staff, patients and families,” Little said. “I had to learn it over the years. I came in as a new nurse getting all excited about everything going on with my patients, but it’s a maturing experience.”  

Healthcare is what Little was born to do. She grew up in a family with many medical professionals. Early on, she was drawn to the biological sciences and earned a degree in biology before becoming a nurse. For most of her career, she focused on leadership and critical care until the birth of her grandchildren lured her to Charlotte and to the ICU at Presbyterian Medical Center.

An important part of Little’s role is keeping her team rested and free from approaching burnout. ICU nurses are known for being so focused on caring for patients, they sometimes struggle to look after themselves. Little makes sure her team takes time for “self-care.” She’s created a “lavender room,” where nurses can relax and catch their breath. It has a diffuser with lavender oil, healthy snacks, soft music and low light.

“I have a line that I use: ‘Panic serves no useful purpose,’” Little said. “It’s something I share and demonstrate with my team all the time.”

Little has also encouraged her team to cherish the little victories, like when one patient who had been on a ventilator and with a machine oxygenating her blood finally pulled through.

“The day that the patient got to leave the ICU, the staff did a celebration walk and cheered and clapped her on as they took her to the stepdown unit,” Little said. “That was such a big win for the staff because we did not expect it to turn out like that.”

The community has also done its part to celebrate the hospital’s effort.

“We’ve had a wonderful outpouring of support from the community,” Little said. “One of our jokes is COVID-19 is really the 19 pounds we’re going to gain from all the food we’ve received. The fact that we can laugh about it is a lot of progress right there.”  

There have, of course, been difficult moments, and Little and her team have adapted quickly, finding new ways to shine a light and show compassion. For instance, when one patient was at the end of his life, family members couldn’t visit due to restrictions in the ICU. Instead, Little’s team used videoconferencing so family members could be there in spirit.

“These 20 family members were singing to this patient as he passed, singing that patient to heaven,” Little said.     

As the nation tries to turn the corner on COVID-19, Little has felt honored by the resiliency of her staff and to be a part of the team.

“The attitude is changing from fear to being resolute to now, ‘We’re beating this,’” Little said. “And it’s not that we’re beating COVID. We’re beating our own fear.” 

You can join the fight against COVID-19, too.

By contributing to the Hope for Remarkable Team Aubergine Fund, you can help our team members as they care for those in need. Join us and donate today.

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