Skip to main content

Joplin Missouri Tornado destroys hospital – medical staff Heroes

joplin-hospital-chopper-300x225As you probably already heard, 116 people died on 22 May 2011, in Joplin Missouri as an enormous tornado unleashed its wrath upon the town. Buildings including the local hospital were ripped apart and destroyed. The Joplin hospital crisis is of particular interest to me, simply because having worked in a hospital, I imagine the staff and patients of St. Johns Regional Medical Center were not having an easy day.

Windows were blown out; equipment was blown 5 blocks away. The parking lot was like a junk pile of mangled cars and a medical helicopter lay damaged on the ground. 183 patients and about 200 staffers were evacuated from the hospital. Apparently 5 others died. The tornado left Joplin residents shaken.

I remember going through evacuation procedures and drills almost every other day at the hospitals I’ve worked for, but I’ve never been in a real emergency evacuation situation before so I can’t picture the scenario at Joplin (St. Johns) hospital to its full extent.  But I do know this, there were people who went the extra mile to lend a helping hand to a stranger and barely any of them will ever be named. Hospital staff loaded patients on pickup trucks and did whatever they could to get them to safety. In just 90 minutes, the hospital was evacuated. While they were taking patients to safety, many of them were likely worried about their own family members, but still put their patients first, making them nothing less than heroes. They are no doubt still working around the clock to get the situation under control.

We once had a staged bomb threat at a hospital I previously worked for. No one was informed that it was just a drill, they even had a bomb squad present to sell the story to the staff. I happened to be off that day so I missed the action (and was actually glad for it). The staff were ordered to evacuate the building immediately. In any evacuation they tell you to help as many people as you possibly can without endangering yourself. Obviously some patients would be difficult to move around. The staff carried out the evacuation well but I was particularly impressed with a senior RN I’ve had the privilege to work with.  She decided that she was going to stay in the building with any patients that couldn’t be moved on time. She was fully aware that the longer she stayed in the building, the higher the risk was that she may die, but she refused to abandon her patients. While I don’t necessarily encourage nurses to sacrifice their lives for their patients (you’re more useful alive than dead), I am comforted to know that superheroes don’t just feature in comic books. They could be standing right next to you and you wouldn’t know it until a crisis arose.

Joplin, Missouri is devastated by this monstrous tornado but if you try to look for a little light in a dark place, it’s usually found in ordinary human beings, doing extraordinary things to help their fellow man. You can help too by donating to any of the organizations as listed on CNN – click here.