“They were welcoming and so incredibly grateful for our help,” Tufts MC Coronary Intensive Care Unit (CCU) Nurse Kate Lannon, RN said of her experience helping out after Hurricane Harvey walloped Texas. Kate volunteered to take care of patients at Bay Area Regional Medical Center (BARMC) in Webster, Texas, just outside Houston. She was one of 26 medical personnel from Massachusetts who spent a week at BARMC to help with their increased census and give that hospital’s nurses time to deal with damage to their homes.
The volunteers stayed with host families in a small community that escaped the hurricane’s wrath. Kate was amazed at the destructive power of the flooding and how fast it happened. Water filled the first floors of many homes, ruining nearly everything inside. Some people couldn’t get help for days. One family showed them how they had to climb out of their second floor window to get to a rescue boat.
While at BARMC, Kate worked the night shift and during the day she and other nurses volunteered to help at various locations. Kate helped two older women pack up what they could salvage and put it into their garage. Piles of debris and furniture grew in front of homes as people started to clean up.
Another day, Kate and a few other nurses went to NRG Stadium, which housed 3,000 people who had lost their homes. Because few people needed nursing care at that time, the nurses walked dogs that either belonged to the evacuees or had been rescued, freeing them from their crates for a little while.
As an experienced intensive care nurse, providing care at BARMC, “Was very similar for the most part, although our acuity is higher. They even use the same computer system, which was an advantage.” She said the hardest part was having just one physician in the hospital at night—in the Emergency Department; BARMC is not a teaching hospital.
Kate is very grateful that Clinical Nursing Director Ken Shanahan allowed her to volunteer in Texas, and to her Tufts MC nurse colleagues who covered her shifts. She said she would love to help out again if given the chance because she received so much out of the experience and formed many new relationships.