Responding in crisis

Aug 19, 2018, 19:34 PM by Shannon Porter

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For nine UTMB Correctional Managed Care nurses working in Gatesville, Texas, June 26 started off just like any other day. 

But that normalcy changed after one nurse received a Skype call from an off-duty colleague. 

The call was to ask the on-duty CMC nurses if they had heard about the explosion at Coryell Memorial Hospital, which in the small community of Gatesville, is only about six miles from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Alfred D. Hughes Unit. 

“Because of where we’re located in the prison, we couldn’t feel or see the explosion,” said Teri Smith, a nurse manager at the Hughes Unit who received the call. “But when I went outside, all you could see was a huge cloud of smoke.” 

The explosion, which occurred while construction crews were working in the hospital’s boiler room, killed three people and injured more than a dozen others. 

Smith said almost everyone at the Hughes Unit knows people who work at the hospital or have loved ones in the nursing home located near the hospital. The nurses on-duty that day, along with others who were off that day, did what they could to help during the crisis. 

Some of the CMC nurses rushed to the hospital and the two nursing homes located nearby to help evacuate patients. The nursing home patients were transported to different churches and nursing homes, so the rest of the nurses went to Coryell Community Church to help with the patients being sheltered there. 

“We helped off-load them, identify them, make sure they had their oxygen and water to drink because it was quite hot,” Smith said. 

The nurses also worked to identify diabetic patients, serve meals and help console them because they were all frightened, she said. 

“The whole community came together,” Smith said. “And it didn’t surprise me that UTMB staff were all so willing to help. We are all proud to work for an organization that recognizes how important it was to respond and help the community we live and work in.” 

Following Hurricane Harvey, which devastated much of Southeast Texas last year, the same staff members in Gatesville gathered truckloads of supplies and water and transported them to Beaumont to help the victims, she said. 

“UTMB has a big heart!” Smith said.