During the worst of times, people count on heroes to step up and help them during their darkest hour. For UT Physicians, our team of heroes includes the staff on the 24-Hour Nurse Help Line.
As Hurricane Harvey hammered Texas, the phone lines remained open and answered, providing a beacon of hope to patients struggling in the midst of crisis.
A bright spot during tough times
On Friday, Aug. 25, Elvia Gomez, R.N., Alexis Longoria, R.N.,Trie Fulco, R.N., and Brenda Ramirez, R.N., reported for duty knowing Hurricane Harvey’s imminent arrival might leave them stranded. As Harvey made landfall overnight and Houston received the first of many torrential downpours, the four nurses answered patient calls – business as usual.
At daybreak, sunlight revealed the beginnings of catastrophic flooding across the city and surrounding areas. Over the next five days, the flooding increased daily, making it impossible for some nurse triage employees to report for duty. Rather than leaving the phone lines to check their own property and families, Anthony Blades, R.N., who arrived on Saturday, and Gomez stayed at the office to answer the phone lines. Blades and Gomez each worked a total of 96 hours and slept in shifts.
“These nurses who were facing uncertainty of their own, yet remained on the lines to provide care and comfort to our patients who were at their most vulnerable, speak to the dedication that runs deep in our profession,” said Robin Riggs, R.N., senior nurse manager. “I cannot express enough how amazing these nurses were during the storm. They selflessly volunteered to remain here to care for not only our patients, but also each other.”
As weather and road conditions permitted, team members arrived to support each other and the patients. Despite a natural disaster, the dedicated personnel who could safely travel to work proved how much UT Physicians loves its patients.
By Tuesday, Aug. 29, Louis Adler, R.N., Qiana Allen, R.N., Adnan Ayoub, R.N., Erliza Creag, R.N., Michelle Garcia, R.N., Patti Hinson, R.N., Brenda Ramirez, R.N., Ninfa Torres, R.N., S.J. Abke and Laura Land braved the elements to help the team and offer a friendly voice to patients in need.
“I am humbled by their teamwork, dedication and determination,” said Riggs. “Many patients were calling for urgent medical care, but an equal number were calling because of stress and anxiety after losing everything during this storm. They were looking for reassurance.”
Andrew Casas, COO and vice president, echoed Riggs’ sentiment. “The service this team provided was essential for our patients,” said Casas. “With all that was going on around them, they performed their duties flawlessly. They supported each other and are nothing short of amazing.”
Gomez explained that she doesn’t feel like she did anything special. “It’s more like—I am a nurse,” said Gomez. “This is what I do. I absolutely love being a nurse—especially after this experience. We made such a difference in the lives of frantic parents and patients who were calling.”