Shelby Hospital Associates Step up to Help When Disaster Strikes
On Sunday, April 14, at around 5 p.m., a powerful tornado touched down in Richland County, sweeping for 17 miles through the southern section of Shelby and several neighboring townships.
The half-mile-wide tornado with winds up to 125 miles per hour ripped through dozens of homes, businesses and barns, tearing off roofs and siding, downing trees and power lines, and flattening about 30 structures.
Fortunately, no one was killed, but about seven people were injured, two seriously. The storm caused power outages across the county, including for three hours at OhioHealth Shelby Hospital. Associates both in and outside the hospital sprung quickly into action to help their community, even as some grappled with personal losses from the tornado and feared for the safety of their families.
Theresa Roth, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, NHDP-BC, director of critical care for OhioHealth Mansfield and Shelby hospitals, was at her Shelby home sewing a quilt when the storm hit. At first, she and her husband, John, didn't realize their house was in the path of a tornado.
"All of a sudden the sky got dark," Theresa recalls. "I turned around and I said, 'John the sky is swirling.' I thought it was hailing, but it wasn't hail, it was actually debris."
Seconds later, Theresa received a text from Dr. Gavin Baumgardner, vice president of medical affairs for Mansfield and Shelby hospitals, who'd been watching the storm from Columbus: "Are you OK?" he asked. "Looks like you've been hit by a tornado."
"That's when I knew I needed to call the hospital," says Theresa, who immediately got on the phone with Shelby's nursing supervisor Wendy Roop BSN, RN, while walking outside to survey property damage. Theresa noticed ripped-off roof shingles, shattered fence and pool equipment that would take weeks to repair. She also noticed that she was lucky compared to some of her neighbors who experienced more significant damage. After checking her property, Theresa drove to Shelby Hospital, dodging debris and road closures that turned her normal seven-minute drive into a 30-minute ordeal.
At Shelby Hospital, associates began receiving severe weather alerts on their phones shortly before the building's tornado alarm sounded. They immediately began moving patients into the hallway, closing blinds and doors.
Wendy had an ominous feeling. It was a Sunday evening and she had limited staff. What if there were mass casualties and other associates were too busy to come in to help?
Thankfully, she couldn't have been more wrong. Minutes after the tornado hit Shelby, bypassing the hospital, Wendy's phone began ringing non-stop. Theresa called to say she was coming in and setting up the command center. Off-duty associates and the nursing supervisor at Mansfield Hospital called offering assistance. Soon, Shelby Hospital was filled with double the usual staff.
Wendy fielded each call, even as she worried about her own family members who live in Shelby. They turned out to be safe, although a cousin suffered damage to his home.
"When I finally got a chance to go to the basement where we have our command center, I had tears in my eyes when I saw how many people were there," Wendy says. "I wasn't alone. I appreciated knowing they had my back."
After the tornado, OhioHealth associates continued to rally around the Shelby community. On Wednesday, April 17, Christina Thompson, media relations and communications senior consultant for Mansfield and Shelby hospitals, coordinated distribution of food and water to residents and workers impacted by the storm with the help of about 70 volunteers – a third of them associates.
"I was struggling with, how can I help? Where do I tap in?" Christina says. "You know there are people who are really suffering, and you want to be there for them the best way you can."
In total, the volunteers delivered a light breakfast and 400 brown bag lunches to areas with storm damage. Among the volunteers was Wendy, who came in to Shelby Hospital on her day off.
"It was just amazing how everybody pulled together," she says of the tornado aftermath. "The only thing you can kind of compare it to is family. Everybody took care of each other."
This story was originally published in an internal OhioHealth associate publication.
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