Hurricane Heroics: Please Share Your Stories!

For almost two weeks, New Jersey’s healthcare community has been fixed on a single goal: caring for patients in the aftermath of one of the worst natural emergencies to ever strike the Garden State. This storm will forever be linked to the images of devastated shore communities, neighborhoods without electricity and long lines at gas stations. But I wanted to highlight what has gone on at our hospitals and other healthcare facilities behind the scenes – things like:

  • Healthcare employees sleeping at their hospitals and nursing homes because of travel and fuel problems. They did it to make sure adequate staffing would always be available to care for their patients.
  • Hospitals across the state caring for a tremendous number of New Jerseyans in their emergency rooms; some hospitals reported ER volume as high as four times normal. Many of these were true emergency cases, some were patients with needs like oxygen that couldn’t be met in their homes without electricity, some were individuals who experienced chest pains, back injuries and other problems as they began the long process of storm cleanup, and many were individuals coping with stress-related conditions and other mental health issues related to the pressures of the storm.
  • Hospitals becoming true community centers during the storm and resulting power loss. A few examples among many: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Rahway and Hackettstown Regional Medical Center opened community “charging stations” in their lobbies for residents without electricity. CentraState Healthcare System opened its fitness center and showers to the public, providing a healthy outlet for residents with no power or hot water in their homes. And hospitals in the Atlantic Health System provided space for community-based physicians whose offices were without electricity.
  • A team of healthcare workers working at an elderly support program in Jersey City called PACE – Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly – climbing into a van during the storm to call on their clients and make sure they had the support they needed.
Those are some of the stories I’ve heard, but I know there are many other examples out there. I would love to hear more and invite you to add your comments at the bottom of this post and share any other stories of service in the storm.

For me, one of the things I will most remember from Hurricane Sandy is the reassuring reality that healthcare services never stop. Despite storm surge, damaging winds, power loss, fuel shortages and any number of challenges, New Jersey hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and hospice providers cared for the people of our state before, during and after the storm. A few examples: Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Barnabas Medical Center performed six life-saving transplants in a three-day span when they were still on generator power. And AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center – which took a pounding on the coast – delivered 20 babies, including a set of twins, in the four days during and immediately following the storm. So far as we know, none were named Sandy.
Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:28

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HandWorks LLC said...
Hello! We are Kathy Conard and Sally Gillenson, and we own/operate HandWorks, LLC, a small Occupational Therapy clinic in Saddle Brook providing Certified Hand Therapy to people who have sustained traumatic injuries, undergone reconstructive surgery, or who live with chronic conditions of the upper extremity.
We were both fortunate to only lose power to our homes as a result of Hurricane Sandy, but our office building lost power, as well. We were open and treating on Monday, 10/29, before Sandy made landfall, but when our office building remained without power on the subsequent days following the storm, we became concerned. We have many post-operative and/or five day per week patients who couldn't go for long without being seen by us, so we decided to open a temporary site: Sally's home!
Last Sunday night, 11/4, when it became clear our building would not have restored power before the work week began, we were let in by our building manager and, with the help of flashlights and headlamps, quickly gathered patient charts and all the therapeutic equipment we could. By the morning of Monday, 11/5, the "kitchen clinic" was temporarily open for business. Sally treated patients in her kitchen, and Kathy guided them through their exercises at the dining room table.
Many of our patients, in addition to missing out on many consecutive days without therapy, were eager to see us and their fellow patients in order to catch up/check in after the devastation of the hurricane. People were so grateful that we'd managed to be open and many were incredibly generous, bringing us fruit platters, flowers, and baked goods. We had a busy Monday and Tuesday before being able to move back to our clinic (power was restored mid-morning on Tuesday, 11/6).
While we wouldn't classify this example of us taking matters into our own hands as "heroic" per se, we think we did what any other caring Healthcare providers would do: made sure, no matter what, that patients in need were able to be treated.
We are proud to be a part of such a vibrant Healthcare community and want to help as much as we can with people who lost so much more than electricity as a result of Sandy.
November 11, 2012 06:51
Barbara Sebiri said...
Please see special section of the Star Ledger from Sunday, 11-11-2012. Some absolutely amazing stories that will warm your heart. Read the unbelievable story of the Medical Director of the Stroke Center at Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ---describe his search for internet connection to evaluate a CT scan on his laptop from home! Just amazing!
November 12, 2012 04:10
Matthew Russo said...
Betsy,

Can I use your quote and give credit alongside in our next quarterly newsletter: "I will most remember from Hurricane Sandy is the reassuring reality that healthcare services never stop. Despite storm surge, damaging winds, power loss, fuel shortages and any number of challenges, New Jersey hospitals, nursing homes [and other] providers cared for the people of our state before, during and after the storm."

You are dead on. I have plenty of stories and I will be speaking and sharing them at the 12/10 LTC Emergency preparedness seminar at Bergen Community College being sponsored by NJHA, HCANJ, NJDOH and Leading Age of New Jersey.

I look forward to hearing from you and your blog tells our whole story! Thank you!

Best Regardss,
Matt Russo, LNHA
November 15, 2012 09:41
Scott Serbin said...
The bumper sticker might says "Jersey Girls Don’t Pump Gas," but they sure show their strength, determination and tenacity in helping their community in their time of need, especially so if they are an ED nurse.

No power, the loss of all of her possessions, the realization that her Point Pleasant home will need to be rebuilt and what does Janet McGeehan, RN (a true "Jersey Girl" and well respected member of the emergency medicine community in New Jersey and New York) do? She organizes an aeronautical supply drop of food, diapers, supplies, generators and gasoline from "Archangel Airborne," based out of Honesdale, PA, to Lakewood, NJ. Dubbed "Operation Jersey Shore Airlift," they delivered over 2,700 pounds of food, diapers and personal items collected in Honesdale, PA in just 36 hours from the end of the storm and delivered them to Lakewood Airport for distribution to local community members by the National Guard. Archangel Airborne (www.archangelairborne.org) has since made subsequent deliveries of supplies to both NJ and to Staten Island.
November 18, 2012 04:34

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