The doctors and nurses at Greenwood Leflore Hospital braced for the pandemic, sectioning off their ICU and preparing for an influx of patients. Then the virus struck one of their own.
May 14, 2020
Greenwood Leflore Hospital sits on the eastern edge of the Mississippi Delta. It serves the city of Greenwood and its surrounding rural areas. Though it's not a large facility — with 208 beds and just two ICU doctors — Greenwood Leflore receives patients from even smaller hospitals that don't have units for intensive care.
As the pandemic entered the Delta, the doctors and nurses at Greenwood Leflore set up a 16-bed ICU just for Covid-19 patients and hoped for the best. Nurse Briauna Elam sent her daughter, Kayley, to live with her mother to avoid exposing Kayley to the virus. Dr. Rachael Faught spent all day at the hospital, and sometimes all night. As patients' lungs gave out, Dr. Faught had them sedated and placed them on ventilators. Nurse Elam monitored the ventilated patients and talked to them, even though they couldn't respond. Despite their efforts, the case count climbed and so did the number of deaths.
One day in late March, their friend and colleague Dorothy Boles showed up in the emergency room at the hospital where she'd been a nurse for 42 years. She couldn't breathe.