MURRAY – When the Dec. 10 tornado hit Mayfield, Jackson Purchase Medical Center luckily did not sustain much damage compared to the heart of Mayfield to the hospital’s south. But with so many people in the direct path of the storm needing immediate medical care, many other area health care providers like Murray-Calloway County Hospital had to leap into action to help their neighbors in trouble.
The tornado hit Mayfield around 9:30 p.m., and Murray-Calloway County Ambulance Service Director Marty Barnett said the service initially sent one ambulance and crew to Mayfield and another ambulance and crew to Marshall County to help where they might be needed. Because there was still a possibility of a tornado coming through New Concord around 11:30 p.m., the ambulance service held back some assets and personnel until the threat had passed. Barnett said that after Calloway County had been cleared, two more personnel went to Mayfield and responded to the dire situation unfolding at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory, which had collapsed and trapped some workers inside.
“Those six folks were at the candle factory for that collapse,” Barnett said. “Then the ambulance crew we had sent to Marshall County were really not needed at the time. Since the pressing need was in Graves County, we were able to redeploy that ambulance crew from Marshall County to Graves County. Also, Owen (Moore, a paramedic) and I ended up at the triage center, so we ended up with eight personnel, two ambulances and one (truck with rescue equipment) that we were able to send there. They were there all night – I’d say 12 a.m. to 7 or 8 o’clock Saturday morning.”
Despite the chaos of the moment, Barnett said communications between EMS agencies and hospitals went well. He said he was in touch throughout the night with the EMS directors in Paducah and Marshall County, and the same was true for the leadership at MCCH and other area hospitals.
“All of the first responders just poured into that scene through some of the worst weather that we’ve had in some time, and they were there to do a job and do what we could do,” Barnett said. “These are our neighbors, and we just want to take care of them.”
MCCH CEO Jerry Penner said the Murray hospital actively took care of 32 patients brought in from Mayfield. He said every hospital and responding agency did a great job coordinating to respond to the crisis.
“Probably within moments of the tornado striking, I reached out to Dave Anderson, CEO of Jackson Purchase Medical Center, which is owned by LifePoint Health,” Penner said. “He and I are friends, and over this COVID time, all of the local CEOs have gotten pretty close to help one another. It’s no longer competition; sometimes you’ve just got to know when help is needed. Dave was doing his assessments and got back to me about five minutes later and said, ‘Look, we’re in trouble.’
“He was out of beds, and our hospital was out of beds, so I said, ‘Let’s convert our same-day surgery areas into wards.’ He was already planning on doing the same thing. He said his ambulances were down and I said, ‘I’ll send you whatever we can,’ so that’s when Marty got involved. I reached out to Marty, and Marty was already in the process of launching a couple of ambulances up there, not only there but also to Marshall.”
Graves County’s EMS headquarters, which doubles as the Mayfield Fire Department, had more or less been wiped out by the tornado. In addition to coordinating with Anderson and Barnett, Penner said he reached out to Marshall County Hospital CEO David Fuqua and Trigg County Hospital CEO John Sumner. Unfortunately, Marshall County Hospital had troubles of its own since part of Marshall County had also been hit by the tornado, damaging many trees, homes and other buildings and ultimately killing two residents. After Penner and Anderson talked a few more times, Anderson asked if he could send 20 patients.
“He was still trying to assess what was going on at the candle factory, so ultimately, two buses and a bunch of ambulances came in at about 2:30 in the morning,” Penner said.
Penner praised Vice President of Patient Care Services Jeff Eye, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nicholas O’Dell and the emergency room staff for their excellent organizing. He said that although it had already been a busy day for surgeries, 11 out of 16 same-day surgery staff members came back in. Penner said he was amazed when he walked through and saw how relatively smoothly everything was running.
“Talk about being prepared; when I arrived, it just looked like a well-oiled machine,” Penner said. “Communication was fantastic and morale was high. There were litters (a type of stretcher or gurney) all over the ER, not only in the 12 trauma rooms but also on the floors. I believe we had 18 patients up in the same-day surgery area at that point in time, so it was really amazing work from everybody, and the communication and teamwork were unbelievable.”
Penner said that out of the total of 32 patients, 24 were discharged and eight were transferred, including six by helicopter and two by ground. Helicopters bringing patients were not able to start arriving until about 8:30 that Saturday morning, Dec. 11, because of the high winds that continued hours after the tornado had already passed.
Penner said assessments were challenging because many of the patients had been crushed by falling debris, which meant the extent of their injuries were not visible and had to be identified with CT scans. Penner said many individuals excelled that night, including Dr. Casey Hines, who reportedly read up to 90 studies that night and into the morning. He said that luckily, only two surgeries were needed. In addition to Anderson, Penner said he had also heard praise for MCCH’s efforts from LifePoint Health President and CEO David Dill.
“Overall, I bet there were about 90 to 100 staff members that responded,” Penner said. “They just came in to do their job, and they didn’t complain. It was pretty amazing, from trying to keep people fed throughout the day to keep them on the job, the radiology technicians, our lab techs and all the nurses, from LPNs to CNAs to RNs. They had worked all day and came back in at 7:30 and 8 in the morning after we had just had a shift change. People came in to replace the physicians and nurses or whoever. It was so seamless, you would have thought we did this every day. That was the thing that was most remarkable to me, how well the team just rolled right into one another and tag-teamed.”
Sorry, there are no recent results for popular commented articles.