Coronavirus ‘Code Sun’: How one hospital celebrates patients’ recoveries

By | April 14, 2020

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“Here Comes The Sun” never sounded so good.

The heartwarming song from The Beatles is taking on a whole new life in one hospital just outside New York City, where it is being used to celebrate patients who have overcome the coronavirus.

Whenever a COVID-19 patient is either discharged from the hospital or has their intubation removed, the chart-topping tune is triggered to play throughout Northern Westchester Hospital.

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“It’s a feel-good moment for all of us and brings us all together, as well as celebrating that patient,” Carley Dowd, the nurse manager of the Mixed Medical Oncology Unit, told Fox News.

Dowd, who oversees some 50 nurses and techs, said she was inspired to create this new tradition on the night of March 28, after what she described as a particularly tough day.

“I left work that day kind of feeling a little uneasy,” Dowd said. “We were, you know, on our increase of getting a lot more patients and we’re seeing a lot of things we haven’t seen before, very sick patients. And staff are emotional, which makes you emotional, too. So it was one of those days where you walked out [of your shift] feeling kind of heavy on the heart,” she said.

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Then, something happened. A baby was born.

It’s a monumental event in any setting, especially in a hospital during a pandemic, and it’s one that has always been celebrated where Dowd works with the playing of a lullaby on the overhead speakers.

“So on my way out of work [that night], I heard a lullaby and I kind of thought to myself, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could know when a patient beats COVID and is discharged home?’”

She brought up the idea the very next day, and there was immediate agreement that the new tradition could help boost morale. The only hudle? Choosing a song.

“We kind of went back and forth, we were actually like singing songs for days, trying to find the right one to come up with. I don’t know exactly who came up with [“Here Comes The Sun”], but once one person got wind of it, it kind of just spread and everybody loved it,” Dowd said. “It just has so much emotion to it, and just brings so much to life in that building when you hear that song, I’m glad that was the song that we picked.“

“CODE SUN”

After picking a song, the protocol was put in place: a nurse would call the operator anytime a coronavirus patient is extubated or discharged, say the password – “Code Sun” – and the music would be triggered. It’s now an official hospital procedure.

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That’s exactly what happened when an 88-year-old patient named Rita was discharged in the first video of the tradition shared by the hospital. Dowd was there, she said, and the joy was overwhelming.

Rita was sent off by a dozen cheering and singing hospital staffers, but Dowd said that by playing the song throughout the hospital, the celebration extends to the nurses, and even other patients and guests, who may not be able to celebrate in person.

“No matter where you are and you hear it, it really makes you pause and think… whether it’s a smile or a guest in the hall or everyone clapping, we’ve even had people crying when they hear it,” Dowd said. “It’s just a moment of hope that brings everyone and the whole team together. It just really signifies that victory against the virus, and that’s what we need in this moment of uncertainty,” Dowd added.

Still, patients like Rita will have a long road ahead to full recovery, and Dowd cautions that these types of videos should not be seen as a victory lap against the COVID-19 pandemic at large. Westchester County has nearly 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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“If anything, it’s just more of a pause in time and a feel-good moment just to continue to push through with the team. I think it’s a lot in health care right now, that unknown,” Dowd admitted. “My team is what keeps me focused and hopeful during this time, their teamwork and resilience in moments like this is so inspiring and really is what drives me to my career. So I am truly grateful to have that song and the team together and just have that moment where we can all be together and it just pushes you enough to keep going,” Dowd said.

And there is hope, still.

“The other day I know we had 12 ‘Code Suns’ in one day, that was a huge day,” Dowd said. “Everyone was very excited for that.”

Dowd said her team has received overwhelming donations from the community, especially food, but she shared one way that people can support front line health care workers, no matter where they are.

“What continues to drive us is we keep getting letters from the community, and especially from kids and drawings and just letters, inspirational quotes, things of that nature that we post all over the floor,” Dowd said. “So as the nurses are walking up and down the halls, and they’re in their gear for 12 hours and that could definitely be tasking, they get to look up and see that letter written from a 7-year-old around the corner who just keeps telling that nurse, ‘Keep going.’”

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“We’re really all in it together,” she added.


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