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Colleton Medical Center Staff Helps Hurricane Victims

Three staff members at Low Country Transitions at Colleton Medical Center recently used their skills and talents to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The destructive hurricane unleashed 130 mph winds, caused massive flooding and 84 deaths in August. Colleton Medical Center’s parent company, HCA, coordinated the trip, within days of the storm, to offer relief to HCA hospitals affected by the hurricane. An appeal was made to staff trained in psychiatric healthcare.
Michela Lauricella, a licensed master social worker at Colleton Medical Center’s behavioral health unit, said she decided to help people flooded out by Hurricane Harvey because “it was the right thing to do.”
Lauricella said, “Last year, when Matthew hit SC and a tree came through my home I felt fear, and that was nothing compared to what I imagine the people of Houston felt.” Lauricella assisted with counseling patients and staff, then assessing psychiatric patients at West Houston Medical Center.
Debra Davis, registered nurse, assigned to Tomball Regional Medical Center in Houston, said, “The nurses working came outside to the bus and applauded our arrival. That gave me the chills, as I realized some of these people had not even been able to get to their homes and families.”
Similar sentiments were shared by Nicole Storozuk, registered nurse, assigned to an inpatient geriatric psychiatric center at Bayshore Medical Center in Pasadena. “The local staff had been there for days, without being able to return home yet. Nurses came from all parts of the country to help, ready to start working from day one,” she said.
Storozuk said every effort was made to help patients. “Everyone made sure that things ran as smoothly as possible for the patients and we worked to keep their routine as much as possible,” she said.
Colleton Medical Center staff shared moments that affected them deeply, involving the suffering of the people in the aftermath of the hurricane. “The most challenging thing for me was keeping my emotions in check. It would not be useful for the people needing care to see the caregivers in tears. I was working a geriatric unit and some of these people did not even know what was going on around them,” Davis said.
She said her most challenging patient was a 96-year old who was left behind from a nursing home, and out of fear, Davis thought, the patient had severely bitten her own arms, resulting in the elderly woman becoming septic.
Lauricella said the moment that affected her most was later hearing that a nurse she had worked with in the ER was continuing to suffer from the hurricane. “She let me know that her dad had gotten sepsis from the flood waters. It broke my heart to hear that. Her home was without electricity and she was staying at the hospital. Her parents had been flooded and stranded outside of the city. She was away from her husband and working long shifts at the hospital. She was kind to me, generous and did everything she could to make me comfortable in this new setting. It was hard to hear that someone who was so good to me was continuing to suffer from the effects of the storm,” Lauricella said.
Despite personal hardship, including last minute scheduling and facing the unknown, Storozuk said she responded because she wanted to help. “I saw in the news how hard this area got hit and that any help would be appreciated. Natural disasters can strike any of us at any time and if we have the ability to help each other in any way we can make a difference,” she said.

Special to The Colletonian (1924 Posts)