Fighting to save her second home: Lori Russell

Hospital staff frantically worked to evacuate and preserve supplies

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Lori Russell, nurse at Mercy Medical Center Cedar Rapids

Two hours before flood waters began to creep towards the entry way to the Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, Lori Russell had no idea she would be spending her evening sandbagging and working to save medical equipment as water poured into the building.

But when flood waters approached the hospital during the afternoon on June 12, 2008, Russell and hospital staff dropped what they were doing to help save their second home.

“I think at the time it was just kind of sad and overwhelming because you just didn’t know what was going to happen,” Russell said. “Like, what was the hospital going to do? Because sometimes you can’t get re-opened, and were we going to ship patients out, or were we going to close? I just didn’t know. We were just so uncertain at that time.”

In the morning, Russell was working in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, but by the afternoon, she and her colleagues were stationed outside the hospital doors, sandbagging to prevent water from breaching the building. Though Russell said things were well organized throughout the day, she said it began to get stressful as night fell, water rose, and the weather became testy.

“That night, it got a little chaotic when the pharmacy started taking on water and we were just dumping stuff in bags,” Russell said. “We started out organizing it like ‘here’s the eyedrops and pills,’ but then it was just like — hurry up, dump it all and let’s get out of here because there was water coming down the elevators, it was just unbelievable.”

Even though Russell said there wasn’t much cleanup to do the next day, since the hospital hired an outside company to take care of the mess, she said she and other nurses know they would have done the same thing if another flood event threatened the hospital.

“We always joked if this happens again we’re out… but you would do the same thing, I think,” Russell said. “I think everything went as smoothly as much as it could have, so I think you’d do the same thing.”

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