NORFOLK, Va. - At nearly 70 years old, Wallace "Wally" Richardson is accomplished.
He's a 21-year Navy veteran, loving father and husband to late wife Deborah. Now, he can add COVID-19 survivor to that list.
"I'm actually able to live again, get out [and] be around people," he told News 3 reporter Erin Miller.
Richardson spent a week at Sentara Heart Hospital fighting through his COVID-19 symptoms. When he was finally released, he was able to recover in a much more familiar place -- his home.
He's one of the many people taking advantage of the Sentara To Home program. Under a partnership between Sentara Medical Group and Sentara Home Care Services, the program provides hospital-level care at home. It currently operates under the existing hospital pharmacy transition program.
Richardson is still a patient of the hospital, but he doesn't need the acute care that others do. For the past three weeks, since his physical discharge from the facility, nurse Melissa Whitehead has stopped by his home once a day to check vitals and promote self-care.
"Melissa shows up, you know, helps make sure I'm doing OK, makes you smile. She's friendly, she’s professional and that makes the day go by easier," Richardson said.
With tablet-based technology, he's able to self-record his health progress and have Whitehead send it directly to his hospitalist physician before their daily video chat.
Patients can also use the technology to record their own blood pressure, weight, heart rate and other data, which a nurse can view remotely, allowing clinical staff to address developing issues and triage home visits promptly.
Richardson said the process is easy, and he's at ease knowing he can contact his provider quickly if he needs assistance.
News 3 was there as he Zoomed with Dr. Olagbenro Onwuemene.
Dr. Onwuemene said, "Since you left the hospital, it looks like you've made all your milestones. All of the numbers we want to see you have done without a fever; you have not had any blood pressure changes."
While Richardson is on the rebound from COVID-19, the program assists patients with many conditions including congestive heart failure (CHF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and other conditions that can be managed at home.
Dr. Ola said the program works because it brings low-level care to a home setting and frees up inpatient beds. It also comes at a cheaper cost to the patient.
"It's a little bit of a true test of how you do 'at home' because the hospital environment is not your day-to-day," she said. "Being able to do this program helps us sort of transition smoothly and address any home issues that might impact your recovery and overall clinical outcome."
After weeks of hard work and quarantine, Richardson was discharged from the program on Thursday. The next phase will require physical therapists stopping by for weekly check-ins.
"I just did a lot of praying and just rested as much as I could and paid attention to whatever they told me to do," Richardson said.