A historic rainfall flooded the lower level of Oakwood Hospital — Dearborn on Aug. 11
Less than two weeks into her role as director of Food and Nutrition at Oakwood Hospital – Dearborn, Teresa Ulrich found herself without a working kitchen.
On the lower level of the hospital, the kitchen was among the 250,000 square feet that suffered extensive flood damage from the excessive rainfall on Aug. 11. All the food and beverage items in it had to be discarded.
Ulrich, who had worked through a similar crisis—she worked at the St. Joseph Hospital in Macomb County during the blackout of 2003—knew how to handle the situation.
“Once we saw the water coming up into the kitchen, we had to close it down,” she said. “My job is to maintain patient safety. “
Because she was so new, she said she had to lean heavily on her staff—and they really came through.
“It was a team effort,” she said. “My team stayed through the night to make sure we had enough people to take care of our patients. I was nearly in tears; we had so many people who stepped up and asked: ‘What can I do?’ Everyone wanted to help. Everyone was focused on our patients.”
Taking care of patients on Tuesday involved a late-night shopping trip to a nearby Meijer. Boxed breakfasts were prepared and, because the majority of the elevators were inoperable, a human conveyor belt moved the meals to patient floors.
“It wasn’t the most ideal situation, but we tried to have fun with it,” said Ulrich.
Here are some other Stories from the Flood:
“When the emergency flooding occurred, we didn’t have any patients in pre-op,” said Clinical Manager Terri Gray, RN, BSN. “Pre-op nurse, Sam (Hussein) Fawaz, immediately headed down to the ED to help and took the evacuation chair from our department with him. He made multiple patient transfers to get patient out of the ED—including walking an elderly patient up the stairs, one step at a time.
Susanne French, a staff nurse in the Mother/Baby Unit, said she could not get back home due to the flooded roadways. She returned after 90 harrowing minutes and stayed the night at the hospital. She stayed until noon the next day to help out because many team members couldn’t make it in to work.
The calls started coming in to the Environmental Services (EVS) department at about 5 p.m. on Aug. 11. Teri Nesbitt, patient flow coordinator with EVS, quickly sent staff out to try to mop up the water. When calls started coming in from the ED, too, they helped out wherever and however they could.
“Our team was helping people up the stairs; when the elevators went down we just put carts by the elevators to move housekeeping up and down floors, maintaining normalcy for the patients,” she said. “We were busy with water all the way up to 7 a.m.”
Debbie Armstrong, who works at an Oakwood OPN practice, was with her husband in the ED when the flood started.
“Just prior to this, my husband had asked his nurse, Lester Borromeo, for some things. Before he could bring my husband the things he needed, the flooding began and the Oakwood team had a major catastrophe on their hands,” she said. “Everyone was doing what they had to do to make sure the patients were properly cared for. We were taken upstairs by an employee and put into the hallway with everyone else. Lester searched for and found my husband so that he could continue what he had promised my husband. As soon as Mr. Borromeo found us, he realized my husband was not on a cardiac monitor and immediately found a place for him so that he could be on his monitor.
“Everyone that evening was doing everything they could to handle this very chaotic situation,” she added. “If it wasn’t for Mr. Borromeo and his care and concern for his patients, I don’t know how my husband’s situation would have ended. I feel that the team as a whole did an amazing job trying to keep the situation under control.”
The staff in Central Sterile Supply processing had to work fast when the water started coming in, said Ken Warnock, supervisor, Central Sterile Processing.
“Chris Cherwak, Vilma Csicsak, David Daniel, Chynita Fears, Sandy Felder, Sarah Liley, Michael Rowell, Julie Snoes and Kevin Vaz all responded quickly, calmly and professionally to try to protect equipment and sterile supplies and instruments,” said Warnock. “They worked to get case carts that were prepared for the next day upstairs to ensure they would not become contaminated. They moved all of the electrical equipment off of the floors, they lifted the anti-fatigue mats onto carts and put work stools onto tables. The afternoon shift is a fine example of a well-focused team. Great job to all of them!”
“Tuesday morning, was definitely an interesting ride to work,” said Robin Remington, an administrative secretary in Imaging Services. “What usually takes me 20 minutes from downriver, took me well over an hour. Every time I thought I had a route figured out, I would run into another lake of water or traffic at a standstill. When I finally got in, the team in Radiology had already hit the ground running, working hard, always putting our patients first. In addition, our Chief Radiologist, Dr. Don Conn, knowing that the cafeteria was out of commission and that staff might be called upon for extra shifts, acted quickly and ordered pizza for the entire radiology staff for lunch. Thank you, Dr. Conn!”
Chaplain Marianne Burnett said examples of compassion and teamwork were evident everywhere she looked and wherever she went throughout the crisis.
“It’s amazing how many heroes remain anonymous to me because I do not know their names, but I witnessed teamwork at its best on Monday night, August 11. It seems as though no matter the discipline, Oakwood Hospital – Dearborn staff just helped out where necessary.”
Burnett mentioned team members who helped out stranded colleagues, EMTs transporting materials from the ED, Oakwood Hospital – Dearborn Security remaining very calm and staff escorting patients and visitors up and down the stairs and more.
“Everyone seemed to jump into action. I did not hear one complaint from the staff, though many staff heard from their loved ones (including myself) that their basements were flooded,” Burnett said. “I was touched by the hospitality and generosity of strangers. Most notably, the patients appeared to understand and delivered an extra ounce of patience. The entire night was incredible to watch and be part of.”
Scott Stockinger, trauma prevention coordinator at Oakwood Hospital – Dearborn, said the response from the public safety community has been inspiring, too.
“Over the last week I have talked with many EMS crews about how things are going from their point of view. The comments have truly been very positive,” he said. “Many can’t believe that we were able to open back up as soon as we did and have it run so well. Other crews have commented on how they feel it is actually quicker for them to turn around and be back on the road. Overall the EMS community bringing patients to our new temporary Emergency Department are impressed and happy to be bringing patients to Oakwood Dearborn.”