ORLANDO, Fla. – One of the biggest concerns when it comes to battling COVID-19 has been personal protective equipment, but thanks to the help of one Orlando man, the city never saw a shortage.
In April, the City of Orlando partnered with the Amway Center to turn the facility into a huge PPE warehouse. The man in charge of running the facility not only came out of retirement for the mission, he lived at the Amway for over a month to do it.
"I was here 45 days and 44 nights," Dennis Beatty said, showing News 6's Candace Campos the space.
For the retired United States Air Force Colonel and AdventHealth Orlando Assistant Vice President, answering the call for service just comes second nature.
“On the third of April, I was approached by two senior presidents of AdventHealth, could I be involved with a major project that they needed to address the COVID virus?” said Beatty. “Primarily how they would handle the PPE coming in that had been ordered to keep the frontline staff, support staff, families and patients safe.”
Three days later, he moved into the Amway.
"When we first came to the Amway, we were given the tour of the players' garage, the arena floor, some of the utility hallways, we even got a tour of the front lobby as potential sites to store materials," said Beatty. "During the tour, I was shown a room, it was a dressing room, used by Elton John and Justin Timberlake. And they asked me if I thought that would make a good office for my role because it was close to the command center. I looked at them and said, 'would it make a good sleep room?' Because my intent was always to stay as close to the operations I could, not knowing how long that would be."
The Amway was transformed into a giant PPE warehouse, processing about $40 million worth of supplies for all AdventHealth locations around the country. That includes more than 50 facilities across nine states.
“Anything from the ventilators to the thermometers, but we also did all of the various gloves, nitrile gloves, vinyl gloves, surgical gloves, gowns of various types,” he said. “Hand sanitizer was a huge project that we were processing, we even got 55-gallon drums of surface cleaner that was used for disinfecting and we had in the order of 26 drums of hand sanitizer which we kept in the Zamboni garage.”
That's more than 400 truckloads of materials and about 4,200 pallets worth of supplies. So being able to import and export items simultaneously was a little bit like a popular game.
"I didn't play Tetris but I think I would be pretty good at it now," said Beatty.
“The materials would come into the dock area, we would break the materials down by contract codes, delivery codes, and then product items. So gloves had to be broken down into types and sizes so they can be pulled correctly. The material was staged here in the arena, and we would get pick lists of, ‘here’s materials going to Texas, here’s materials going to different parts of Florida,' and we would pick the materials and then stage those for the outgoing trucks. My typical day was about 15 hours and then any planning for the next day happened after that, so it was 15-17 hours per day.”
The operation also was an opportunity to keep some Amway employees at work at a time where they otherwise may not be.
“We found jobs for everyone,” said Beatty. “In 16 hours of training, we turned them into food supply technicians and medical logistics technicians to take care of the PPE that was very much part of the life-saving operation.”
Beatty said he was so dedicated to the project, he even ended up missing out celebrating his 23rd wedding anniversary with his wife, Pam.
"I think it's a great honor but the way that I view this is that I was asked to be involved with something very important for the community and the PPE that our frontline medics, our support staff, patients and families need to continue getting safe and effective healthcare was extremely important, to the point where Pam and I knew when I left to go to Orlando, we would not see each other until the operation was complete," said Beatty.
“On the second weekend, Pam and I were celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary and I convinced the first and second shift during our one-hour overlap that we would give Pam a phone call and on speaker wish her a happy anniversary.”
Pam said she couldn't be more proud of him.
“My heart is very full of all the work that he’s done over the many years,” said Pam Beatty. “It’s great validation of how great a person he is. But I also think he had a great team and so I am forever grateful to the team and to Dennis for all the work that they’ve done.”
Beatty said it truly was an extraordinary experience.
He told Campos the staff presented him with an Orlando Magic jersey they all signed as a thank you. To show his gratitude, he said he’s offered to write the staff recommendation letters should they ever need one.