Hurricane Harvey couldn’t close the doors at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital
Thanks to the dedication of its physicians and staff, Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital continued serving patients throughout Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath – the only hospital in the county to remain fully operational despite the storm and the severe flooding it caused.
“The ability of the hospital to remain open throughout Hurricane Harvey is the direct result of our staff’s advance planning and the sheer determination of our physicians, nursing staff and employees to make it to work and to stay here as long as necessary to continue serving our patients and the community,” said Chris Siebenaler, Houston Methodist Sugar Land CEO. “Many of them braved high waters and left their families even while their own homes were at risk to come in and care for patients. I am extremely proud of our team and the work they did that week – we actually had a number of employees living here in the hospital for several days so that we could keep our doors open.”
Even on the worst day of flooding, close to 300 Houston Methodist Sugar Land employees were on-site providing care around the clock. The hospital also served as a temporary shelter for many employees and their families who were forced to evacuate their homes. Among those sheltered were over 200 families!
One of the hospital’s many “Harvey Heroes” was nurse Julie Kaiser, who navigated around flooded streets, roadblocks and detours to make it in to work on Sunday, Aug. 27, determined to help her coworkers despite her concerns for home and family. The next morning, she learned that her neighborhood was subject to a mandatory evacuation. Fortunately, her family was able to make it to the hospital as well and stay on-site in the temporary shelter.
Patient care assistant Michael Gonzales was another employee who braved high waters to get to work. Once on-site, he stayed for three straight days, caring for patients. Patients constantly complimented his cheerfulness and diligence.
When he finally was able to go home, his father drove to the hospital to pick him up, and brought food for all his coworkers! The next morning, on his way to volunteer, Gonzales stopped by again with kolaches and doughnuts for all the nurses still working.
Nurse Diann Devillier was scheduled to retire the week of the hurricane. But when she learned that her team needed help, she arrived at the hospital with a pillow and suitcase – prepared to stay for as long as needed!
Nurse Jerome Amado not only worked at Houston Methodist Sugar Land during the hurricane – he also spent his days off rescuing people by boat in the Richmond, Katy and El Campo areas.
As the flood waters rose, nurse Mario Saravia knew he needed to get to work to help his coworkers care for patients. But his typical route to work was flooded, and he could see the stalled cars everywhere. But he never gave up – he tried a number of different streets until he finally worked his way around the flooding and made it to the hospital.
Nurses Fina Sawoska and Caroline Miller work together at Houston Methodist Sugar Land in a medical/surgical unit. When they realized they could not reach the hospital due to flooding, they decided to use their skills elsewhere and walked to the George R. Brown Convention Center, which was in desperate need of medical professionals. The next day, after the flood waters started receding, they were back at work at Houston Methodist Sugar Land!
“There are many other stories just like these, of our physicians, nurses and employees doing whatever they could to get to work and help out, or in some cases, volunteering at sites around the community,” said Siebenaler. “Our people handled Harvey’s challenge exceptionally well.”
Throughout the harrowing eight-day period from Aug. 25 – when Hurricane Harvey made landfall in south Texas – to Sept. 1, Houston Methodist Sugar Land admitted 318 patients and treated 1,146 more through its emergency department. In addition, 142 non-elective surgeries were completed and 152 patients received dialysis (about 40 percent more than usual due to many nearby clinics being closed).
In total, the hospital’s dietary staff prepared nearly 6,000 meals for patients, their family members and employees.
And the miracle of birth didn’t stop for severe weather; 74 “hurricane babies” were born in the hospital’s Childbirth Center.
“A storm like Hurricane Harvey creates a great deal of stress and worry for everyone, but our physicians and staff made the well-being of our patients a priority,” said Siebenaler. “We are extremely grateful for their hard work and dedication during such a challenging time.”
“We are very appreciative to the many organizations throughout the city, state and nation that are offering support to the hundreds of thousands who have been impacted by Harvey," said Siebenaler. "We at Houston Methodist are also committed to doing everything we can to support the city, including our many thousands of employees who have sustained devastating losses to their homes and property."
Houston Methodist has created an employee relief fund to aid staff members who have suffered losses from Hurricane Harvey which has currently raised more than $7.1 million. To donate, go to bit.ly/hmharveyrelief and choose “Houston Methodist Employee Relief Fund” under the drop-down menu labeled “Please Use My Gift For.” An anonymous donor will match all additional gifts to the Employee Relief Fund dollar-for-dollar, up to a total of $1 million.
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