September 26, 2018
In the wreckage of Hurricane Harvey, Leslie Orth found the inspiration to begin her next chapter
From an early age, Leslie Orth wanted to be a nurse, sharing her dream to take care of people with anyone who would listen. Sure enough, Leslie launched her career as a certified medical assistant, and eventually, worked her way up to a registered trauma care nurse position in Kansas City, Kan.
Over the next 25 years, Leslie’s job brought her many memorable moments, but it was a simple text she received in August 2017 that ended up changing her life. It was two weeks before Hurricane Harvey was due to make landfall in Houston, and Leslie’s employer, HealthTrust, was busy lining up nurses for potential disaster relief. Having lived through several major hurricanes growing up in Virginia Beach, Va., Leslie didn’t hesitate. She added her name to the list of standby volunteers, ready to mobilize at a moment’s notice and head to wherever they were needed most.
As reports of record Houston flooding poured in, Leslie found herself on a plane to Dallas, where she and nurses across the country would spend the night before charting their course into the underwater city. The next day, Leslie took a bus to Conroe Medical Center, and then a plane – piloted by a fellow volunteer who had also traveled from dry land – to Pearland Medical Center. The next thirty days were a whirlwind as Leslie lived out of carryon luggage packed for a two-weeks stay, chipping in anywhere and everywhere to help move staff and patients safely through the storm and its aftermath. She put everything she had into this work as her patients and colleagues became family and her professional skills sharpened. In particular, Leslie grew close to the daughter of one of her patients. When her gig was up, Leslie took time to explore Houston as a tourist with her new friend as her guide.
When Leslie returned home, the glow from her experience hadn’t waned. She missed Pearland Medical Center’s unique caring culture – palpable from its leadership to its patients, and unmistakable in a crisis like Harvey. She couldn’t get Houston off of her mind and started to think about how her kids were grown and how she had always wanted to live near a beach. The next move seemed easy.
A little more than a year after she had visited Houston for the first time in the midst of one of the city’s worst disasters, Leslie and her husband returned to the community for good. Leveraging the relationships she had made as a volunteer, Leslie was able to secure a full-time position in Pearland Medical Center’s ICU and is now building her dream home in Dickinson.
Asked whether she’s worried about future hurricanes, Leslie shrugs. She hopes there’s never another Harvey, but she has been through natural disasters before, and the empathy, selflessness, and cooperation she experienced makes the risk well worth it. In one of Houston’s darkest hours, Leslie saw the light, and is now immensely proud to be able to call the city her home.