The Blizzard of 2011 was a storm we’ll talk about for a long time and I’m sure the 16 inches will be 30 and the three and four-foot drifts will be eight and nine when we tell stories in the years to come. Regardless of how we exaggerate in the future, the truth is the snow brought our community to a grinding halt.
I spent a lot of time shuttling staff back and forth from their home’s and local hotels to the hospital and there was a period of time Tuesday evening that the only business in town that looked to be open was the video store. The only business except the hospital!
There were several TV news crews in Clinton reporting about the storm and most of the crews made their way to the hospital. One of the news stations ran a story about how busy our Birthing Center was during the storm and how our dedicated staff sacrificed their personal time and safety to provide care for mothers and babies. The story was a testament to the commitment our staff have for patient care.
One of the other news stations reported that the hospital was CLOSED! Nothing could be farther from the truth and many of the staff who braved blizzard conditions and frigid temperatures were offended, as they should have been and to be honest, I was too. We were never closed, in fact, we have never been more open.
Several of our engineering staff cleared snow in our parking lot 32 hours straight and I can personally attest that by 2:00 pm Wednesday afternoon our lot was clear of snow and a mountain of snow had been moved. Several patient care staff slept in empty hospital rooms, on mats in outpatient areas, in reclining chairs and in waiting rooms because they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to make it back to the hospital to relieve their co-workers the next day. Several staff took it upon themselves to rent hotel rooms close to the hospital because the threat of severe weather worried them that they might not be able to make it in. The hospital provided 33 hotel rooms over a three day period for staff who wisely decided that travel conditions were too treacherous or for those that couldn’t make it home even if they were brave enough to try and for those staff who were afraid they might not make it back to the hospital if they did go home. As I type this blog many staff still haven’t been home and are continuing to stay at the hospital or a local hotel – talk about commitment!
We made the decision to close our physician clinics and outpatient services Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday but instead of stay home, many of our clinic staff braved the elements to set up an in-house day care. All of the area schools and day cares were closed so having the service in-house allowed many patient care staff the ability to work. Other clinic staff assisted in the ICU and ED and Kyle even helped Mark and I transport staff and prepare one of the 11 to 7 meals.
For two days all meals at the hospital were provided free of charge including a midnight meal both Tuesday and Wednesday. Mark Mattes and I held vigil at the hospital 52 hours straight, providing rides for staff to and from their home, the hospital and local hotels because those staff were committed to caring for patients but had no travel options. Many of the trips we took with staff were in horrible conditions and if we had any choice we would have stayed off the road but we were both fortunate and lucky, no one was injured, we also cooked a couple of meals and no one got sick – both were nothing short of a miracle!
We tend to focus on our problems and all the things we’d like to see done differently but the situation we experienced with the Blizzard of 2011 reminds us of all the things that make GVMH a special place. Our staff care about their patients and they care about one another. When times are most difficult we are at our best.
Here’s a list of “Snow” words I’m going to use to describe the Blizzard of 2011 when I tell stories in the years to come. Let me know which descriptor you like best:
Snowmageddon, Snow. M. G., Snowtopia, Snoworrific, Snow-way, Snowzilla, Snoweze, Snowsux, Snowgantuous, Snowbomb, Snowified, Snowapolooza, Snowtally, Snowicane, Snownado, Snowbomination, and finally Snowbender!
P.S. I’m writing this blog after having slept only a few hours in the last couple days. I’ve proof read it four times and half the sentences don’t make sense but if you’ve read this far you’ve probably understood most of it! If you need me – I’ll be taking a nap.