Just over a year after the Ramsey Prison Cluster in Rosharon was evacuated due to flooding of the Brazos River, Hurricane Harvey lingered over the region, dumping record rainfall on the area again.
Once more, UTMB Correctional Managed Care employees rose to the occasion.
“Our CMC employees always do a great job, but it is in times of crisis that they rise to an even higher level,” said Owen Murray, UTMB vice president for Offender Health Services.
Not only were thousands of offenders evacuated from Ramsey for the second time since last May, but many other prison units in Southeast Texas were impacted as well. At any one time during the storm, CMC employees had to shelter in place at about a third of the 80+ prison units that UTMB serves. If they weren’t sheltered in place for days on end, many helped evacuate or intake displaced offenders, ensure needed medications were stocked, and continue providing quality patient care—even if their own homes or families were impacted by the storm.
When nobody could get in or out of the Carole Young facility in Texas City, FaceTime became the best method for Dr. Olugbenga Ojo, chief medical officer of TDCJ Hospital Galveston, to help female offenders going into labor. While pregnant offenders are usually housed at Carole Young during the third trimester, they deliver at UTMB in Galveston. However, major flooding made the roads impassable.
Using his smartphone, Ojo was able to guide the Carole Young nursing staff, including Debra Harris, Gregory Burkhalter, Nakia Jones-Quintana, Melinda Mullins and Assistant Warden Lorie Larson, through the afterbirth care for one mother and baby, and then helped stabilize another pregnant woman who was having contractions.
“They were concerned about the baby’s heart rate dropping, so I took a screenshot of the patient’s cardiotocography (CTG), which monitors the fetal heartbeat and uterine contractions,” said Ojo, who has a background in obstetrics. “I enlarged the image on my phone and could tell them exactly what the problem was and how to care for the woman. I talked them through laying her on her side, giving her IV fluids, and even got an obstetrics specialist on the phone so we could have a three-way conversation.”
Jones-Quintana, an LVN at Carole Young, assisted with the first laboring woman by retrieving medications, supplies, blankets and gowns while also checking on her own patients.
“I helped organize the triage room and was even granted the amazing privilege of clamping the baby’s umbilical cord before it was cut,” she said. “I thank God the Carole Young team was able to work together during such a chaotic time and deliver a healthy baby girl.”
In addition to taking on additional duties as assigned, many CMC employees also volunteered their time and resources to help affected communities.
Brant Cain, a UTMB Correctional Managed Care practice manager at the East Texas Treatment Facility in Henderson, 40 miles southeast of Tyler, is no stranger to the trauma of a natural disaster. Just last year, his lake house in East Texas flooded during extreme weather. So when he watched the news showing people in danger during Harvey, he jumped into action, taking his boat first to The Woodlands, then to the Katy and Port Arthur areas. Carrying six people at a time in his boat, Cain helped first responders rescue more than 200 people from their homes over a four-day period.
It was a life-changing event he won’t soon forget.
“It was just something I felt like I needed to do,” said Cain. “I have a boat that can run in shallow water, so we had the ability to help people in places that no other boats could access. I used to work in a nursing home before UTMB, so I’m especially passionate about helping the disabled and elderly—I made sure they took all their medications with them when they were rescued.”
Inside and outside of work, Murray said the UTMB CMC family has consistently responded to crisis in a way that protects patients, employees and others in the community.
“We had no negative clinical outcomes as a result of this ordeal—many of our staff members even went above and beyond to help people in the community. That really is a testament to our fantastic employees.”