In January when most people were blissfully unaware of how 2020 would upend their lives, Leisa Bridges knew a nightmare was headed our way and that no one was safe.
Mrs Bridges, a nurse of 20 years, had been working in infection control for 15 years and recently returned from Saudi Arabia where she was dealing with the fallout of the country's own coronavirus strain Mers-Cov2.
She knew how quickly viruses turn deadly for communities and healthcare professionals, and she knew Albury Wodonga Health had to act fast.
"I knew it would get bad and get bad quickly," she said.
"Early in the pandemic we saw some of the modelling figures and I really thought we were going to be an Italy. I had, not to say nightmares, but I was just imagining all these patients needing ventilators, all these patients needing beds - everyone was.
"Not to say we've missed it by the skin of our teeth but I think the community doing the right thing and the health service being in front has really saved us. Looking at heat maps in Sydney and Melbourne we were in the middle so it was like it's coming, it's coming, it's coming."
For the past seven months, Mrs Bridges and the vast team at AWH have hurriedly tried to keep staff and the border community safe from the onslaught of an invisible, infectious and deadly disease.
"Having worked in Saudi I knew what a lot of the key points were because a lot of healthcare workers over there had actually acquired the Mers... so I knew the key areas to make sure our staff were really protected as well as our patients," Mrs Bridges.
There were a lot of sleepless nights. Processes to put in place, clinics to set up, rapid changes and concerns over possible PPE shortages.
Every aspect of hospital life needed to adapt, from cleaning regimes to food preparation. Everything in a hurry as the virus spread into and across Australia. Getting it right was a matter of life or death.
"People described it as trying to build the plane while you're trying to fly it, it was literally like that because we had to set up so quickly," she said. "We were doing it all on the run to try and keep in front of what was happening, it was a huge team effort."
Those early days were vital, the processes Mrs Bridges and a vast number of other AWH staff members set up held them in good stead later when frontline staff tested almost 15,000 symptomatic people and managed 13 positive cases.
Despite the close contact, no healthcare workers were infected. In the early days before the drive-through clinic, Mrs Bridges and other staff entered potentially infected persons' houses to conduct testing all the while knowing her husband and two children were at home.
"My husband has had to pick up a lot because... I've almost been living here the past few months," she laughed.
"Our families know what we're doing and why we're doing it and are fully supportive and behind us.
"There's still an element of worry of what would it mean if I was exposed and came back COVID positive? Not only for myself but for the rest of my family.
"That's always a worry in the back of my mind, the thing that I've always held close to my heart is I know we're doing the best in terms of infection control measure and safety, and I want to maintain that high standard."
IN OTHER NEWS:
The service was well ahead of other operations setting up the first COVID-19 drive-through clinic in regional Victoria.
Mrs Bridges standards were rigorous, at times well above what was being asked by the Department of Health and Human Services.
She ensured staff had P2 masks from day one, even when the department said surgical masks were suitable.
Along the way there have been plenty of COVID curve balls, as the health service calls them, but at the heart of every decision was the health service's determination to protect patients and staff.
"I've never wanted to drop my standards, I've always wanted to maintain them because I just know these guys are the ones who I need to protect," Mrs Bridges said.
"I want them to go their families and be safe as well because I would never be able to sleep at night knowing that I hadn't done as much as I could to protect staff and our community."