In the days after Hurricane Florence made landfall, Codington Elementary was set up as a medical shelter for those who needed it. Many were patients who were ready to be discharged from New Hanover Regional Medical Center but could not return home due to displacement by the storm.
Staff from NHRMC worked at the shelter alongside volunteers.
Kate Tayloe, principal at Alderman Elementary, was volunteering at the shelters and posted some pictures on Twitter with the caption, “It’s hard to celebrate your Bday when you’ve been discharged from the hospital but don’t have a home to return to. This NHRMC nurse made sure that her patient @ the medical shelter got her celebration. THESE are the moments that‘ll ensure we come out stronger on the other side.”
The nurse she mentioned in her tweet was Kristen Martin, an NHRMC nurse who had picked up an extra shift, and was assigned to Codington.
Kristen had no reservations about being assigned to the shelter.
“I realized that I wouldn't be doing my normal routine of being a nurse and was preparing myself for a change of pace and scenery, but this wouldn't be a first for me,” Kristen said. “I went on summer mission trips every year as a teenager with my church group. I've seen people in shelters, without homes, in domestic violence situations, or without parents. I have seen people in all sorts of negative or unfortunate situations.”
While she was working, Kristen heard that it was the birthday of someone who was staying there. She and other staff members wanted to do something to recognize the woman and brighten her day.
“For people in a situation like this one, a little gesture can mean the world,” said Kristen. “Since we were in an elementary school, I knew there had to be an arts/crafts room somewhere. I found some stuff and I got to work on making her a personalized card and had the staff members all sign it for her.”
Someone else went to a nearby store, bought some cupcakes, and made her a cupcake tower. They gave her the cake and card at lunch time while everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to her.
The woman cried and said, "This is so special to me, you guys are so great! I'm going to keep this forever!"
“I could tell this made her day so much more special,” Kristen said. “Even though her life wasn't 'good' at that moment, her day was 'great' because of us. That kind of rewarding experience doesn't always happen during trying times like these, but always seems show up when least expected. I'm glad I was assigned to that shelter that day What a humbling experience it was to see such humanity in the face of despair. After all, that is why I became a nurse.”