When Hurricane Matthew barreled through the Carolinas in October, NHRMC hunkered down for a weekend, sheltering in place and taking care of our patients with no interruptions to care. NHRMC was well prepared for the situation, and when Matthew rolled up the coast and out to sea, we regrouped and returned to business as normal.
Some areas of the state weren’t as fortunate, and Matthew’s deluge left entire communities under water. Lumberton was one of the hardest hit, and as floodwaters rose, Southeastern Regional Medical Center reached out for help.
Nina Kammerich, a nurse in the NHRMC Mother/Baby Unit, had been training for this situation for years. Recently certified as a member of the State Medical Assistance Team, Nina had volunteered to work through the storm at NHRMC.
She was released from shelter-in-place on Sunday. The next day, Southeastern Regional Advisory Committee Response and Recovery Manager Hans Edwards called to see when she would be able to mobilize. Nina bought an armload of energy drinks and nutrition bars, and on Tuesday morning, she and a nurse from Dosher Hospital in Southport loaded into a SMAT truck headed to Whiteville.
A helicopter met them in Whiteville and carried them over the floodwaters to Southeastern Regional.
On the Tuesday when Nina arrived, Southeastern Regional was operating on generator power with no running water. The air conditioning could not be used, the toilets couldn’t be flushed and the hospital was dark except for emergency lights and life-sustaining equipment.
Nina typically works the day shift in the Mother/Baby Unit, but Southeastern had transferred most of its babies. Nina quickly adapted to working the night shift and caring for cardiac patients.
“I told them to put me wherever there was the greatest need,” Nina said. “They always paired me with an experienced cardiac nurse and I learned on the go.”
The conditions, Nina said, forced the medical staff to go back to basics. She kept charts on paper, and when a patient’s temperature spiked, her team plugged a fan into an emergency outlet, and they administered a tepid sponge bath.
When an ample water supply arrived on a truck, workers volunteered to go from room to room, flushing toilets. Staff never hesitated to help whenever anything needed to be done, Nina said.
“The staff there was amazing. They sacrificed sleep until they had enough coverage,” she said. “They always put the patients first before themselves and their families.”
Suzie McCabe, clinical director of the NHRMC Betty H. Cameron Women’s & Children’s Hospital, helped make sure Nina’s shifts were covered at NHRMC so that she could go help where the need was greatest.
“We are proud of Nina’s work with the State Medical Assistance Team, and our team was eager to support her in any way we could,” Suzie said. “NHRMC was spared the worst of Hurricane Matthew, so it was great that Nina was able to help our colleagues in Lumberton.”
Several other NHRMC staff members, including nurses Michelle Reavis of VitaLink and Lindsey Dober Wood of NHRMC Physician Group - Cape Fear Heart Associates, also volunteered at shelters or hospitals during the flooding.