Imagine the stress of trying to save more than a thousand lives, while your own life is going up in flames. Such was the taxing situation last week for the doctors and nurses at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, a trauma center facility close to the apocalyptic North Bay fires we all saw burn so intensely last week.
But this dedicated medical staff says it’s what they chose to do, as they helped double the normal intake load, which equaled some 1,200 patients in a single week.
As reported by local TV news stations KTVU, a staggering 51 doctors, and 83 caregivers lost their own homes in the fires, but still, they kept on working to save more lives, and in some cases, bring new ones into the world. That’s right: 36 babies were born last week on top of everything else the hospital had to deal with, and even that was a larger than normal number, as many women were unable to reach their scheduled places of delivery.
Hospital CEO Tyler Hedden described the week of the horrific fires as one of the most challenging the healthcare facility had ever faced.
“We had no way of knowing what was coming,” Hedden told the media.
The conflagration was one of the most staggering ever seen in the state of California, leaving 41 people dead and destroying thousands of homes, as it tore through acreage in unpredictable and erratically wind-fueled patterns.
Being the major trauma center for three nearby counties, along with its own, Santa Rosa staffed braced for what they knew would be many arduous and emotionally trying days. As burn victims began coming in, who were later transferred to a burn unit, the full scope of the devastation began to sink in.
But it wasn’t just burns and newborns who overcame Memorial Hospital’s staff, it was also 400 residents with extreme breathing issues caused by inhaling the toxic smoke fumes.
And given the chaos of a fast-spreading fire and the visibility issues that accompany it, there were some unusual and horrible injuries as well. Those included a motorcyclist who was tragically run over by an oncoming firetruck unable to see him through the plumes of smoke. That man is now clinging to life in the ICU with a broken neck and spine, his brother told reporters.
Another man was kicked in the head by his own terrified horse.
And yet, all in all, the facility’s trauma director was surprised at the relatively low number of burn victims who came in.
“I … predicted burn victims would be double or triple what we saw,” the doctor said.
So many of the staff lost their homes, it actually helped them relate to some of their understandably distraught patients. Cambria Reese, a 25-year-old nurse at Santa Rosa Memorial, was one of those who heard her own home was gone but kept on working. And when a patient told her he too had nowhere to return to, they simply cried together.
“I cried a lot and kept working,” Reese said. “A lot of people felt hopeless. I was focusing on work and someone else’s health to get through.”
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