Inspire: Hurricane Harvey – an SCI nurse’s story


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Every day in VA hospitals nationwide, nurses dedicate themselves to help patients reclaim their lives. What they do is more than a career, it’s a calling to restore hope and bring healing to Veterans and their families. Nurses’ strength, skill and compassion lie at the core of VA’s high-quality standard of care. This Nurses Week, we are sharing VA nursing stories that embody inspiration, innovation and influence. Be sure to check back in for a new story every day the week of May 6-12th and share your favorite VA nurse memory in the comments section.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a request for specialized staff was deployed to the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas, to provide relief and backup for Houston staff.

As a Nurse in Spinal Cord Injury Center, I felt it important to answer the call in a dire situation. My mindset was providing the best patient care capable and helping the nursing staff deal with the various stresses from long hours and personal property loss. The nursing staff from the spinal cord unit was warm, welcoming, and genuine and quickly made me feel part of their spinal cord family. The patients were equally welcoming and extremely grateful for the help.

Patients were excited to see me. I was quickly back in the groove of patient care and remembered how much I enjoy working with this population of veteran. One particular day I walked into an emergent situation. The patient was a difficult stick who had no IV access. My shift had not started yet so I ran to the ED to borrowed an ultrasound machine and established an 18 G PIV on the first stick. All labs were drawn, and the patient was ready for transport to one of the ICU’s. I was happy to lend a hand when needed most.

My time in Houston was busy and tough, but the staff kept me fed with pot lucks and words of gratitude. One nurse was so thankful because she could take the day off to deal with a collapsed roof. Another lost everything in her home. And one nurse’s one-month old newly built home was completely flooded to the roof. It was an honor to be in a position to help these individuals. My phone has new contacts with hopeful promises for long friendships. The nurse patient bond you find on a spinal cord unit now extends to patients from a larger area of our great state.

SCI Nurse

VA photo by Steve Goetsch

My reflection of this deployment is that Hurricane Harvey’s effects on this area were unprecedented. To witness the power of God working thru the hearts of volunteers to help strangers for no other reason than to be strength for someone who was weak, to be rest for someone who was tired, to be counsel for someone who was struggling, to be a friend to someone who needed a friend, this was a beautiful thing to witness. Mother nature can be destructive at times, but human nature coming together is always productive.
We are VA. We are strong.

Thanks to all of the staff who deployed to relieve our fellow colleagues across the VA network and to maintain healthcare for our Veterans in some of their greatest times of need.

Story submitted by: Joel Gutierrez, RN, SCI

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VA Careers