A photo of Bon Secours physician Candace Whitehurst, MD

Doctor Helps Treat First Known COVID-19 Patient in Eastern Virginia

Jun 4 2020

We are so proud of our health care heroes who have consistently answered the call to serve and care for others over the last few months.

Take Candace Whitehurst, MD, for example. She is a primary care internal medicine physician with Bon Secours Ghent Station Medical Associates who jump right into action when her established patient became one of the first individuals to test positive for COVID-19 in Hampton Roads, VA area.

This patient had been traveling home from a cruise with her husband. During this time, she was notified by the tour company that there was known exposure to COVID-19 on the trip.

“This patient had actually been in our office just a couple of weeks before her overseas trip to discuss vaccines and precautions,” shares Dr. Whitehurst.

The patient and her husband began feeling ill during their flight home. They decided to drive from Washington, D.C. directly to Sentara Leigh Hospital in Virginia Beach, VA. At the emergency room, the couple was evaluated for flu and phenomena then sent home.

However, the couple continued to feel ill. They eventually decided to drive to the emergency room at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital where they were tested for COVID-19 and sent home to quarantine.

Two days later, Dr. Whitehurst was contacted by the hospital and informed that her patient had tested positive for COVID-19. Dr. Whitehurst was then asked to help assist in coordinating the patient’s care.

“During this time, both Bon Secours and Sentara were working hard to develop COVID-19 protocols,” says Dr. Whitehurst. “However, at that point there had been no cases in Eastern Virginia. So, there was a bit of a panic when my patient presented and tested positive for the virus.”

Since this was the first known COVID-19 case in Hampton Roads area, the Virginia Beach Health Department was already involved with the patient’s care. Thus, Dr. Whitehurst collaborated with both the health department and hospital at length to develop and implement a treatment plan.

“We started with the premise that the patient did not, and hopefully would not, need hospitalization,” Dr. Whitehurst shares. “Also, much of what we decided once we had the diagnosis was fluid based on what we knew then and what we learned on a daily basis as we went along.”

The health department provided daily monitoring and tracking of the patient’s progress. They also provided insight into what precautions the couple should be taking. Dr. Whitehurst’s role was to manage any health issues that arose short of hospitalization. If hospitalization was needed, Sentara was ready to handle a swift and careful admission.

“I spoke with my patient on a daily basis during the next week. We discussed her symptoms, they would wax and wane some. But her cough seemed to worsen at one point.”

Dr. Whitehurst discussed with the health department and hospital about having the patient start an antibiotic treatment, knowing pneumonia was a possible complication of the virus. Since there was no antibiotic information about COVID-19 at the time, she decided to prescribe one with broader coverage. Dr. Whitehurst also reviewed with the patient which symptoms and changes would indicate a need to go to the hospital.

“Fortunately, her symptoms began to improve consistently and daily. I could also assess by her voice and her breathing and coughing pattern over the phone how she was doing.”

After weeks fighting through symptoms, the patient eventually recovered and was cleared by the health department with two negative COVID-19 tests. Again, a huge congratulations to Dr. Whitehurst and her collaborators for helping the first known COVID-19 patient in Hampton Roads area make a full recovery and get back to living life.

Stay updated on what Bon Secours is doing related to COVID-19.

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