Wading to Serve at Pearland Medical Center
Flooded post-Harvey roads were no match for RN Rachel Babu’s dauntless spirit and … fishing gear
Rachel Babu was getting anxious. For two hours, she had waited patiently for Dr. James Hammond, her brave colleague who had volunteered to shuttle employees through the Harvey-flooded streets to Pearland Medical Center. She knew he was doing everything he could, but she kept thinking about her hospital’s patients who were stranded at the facility – normally, a three-minute drive away – and needed help. Resolved, she pulled on her husband’s old fishing waders. If she couldn’t drive, it was time to walk.
As she neared the end of her driveway, the flood waters continued to deepen, settling at mid-thigh. The worst of the rain had stopped, but it was still drizzling when Rachel started down her street, blinking the mist away, with her husband. Half-way down her street, he turned back for their home where their sons were waiting, wishing his wife luck. Rachel continued slowly, feeling for drop offs. Each step was an effort, but even after dropping her cell phone in the murky water, she remained determined.
An hour and fifteen minutes later, she arrived at the hospital, so drenched her colleagues didn’t recognize her. With little time for vanity, Rachel toweled off and made a beeline for Pearland Medical Center CEO David Wagner’s office. Despite her official role as a data quality coordinator, looking around at the hospital’s skeleton crew, Rachel realized its needs had become more basic. Remembering her background as a bedside nurse, Rachel turned to David: “I’m a nurse,” she said. “Utilize me.”
The next thing she knew, Rachel was making rounds on the hospital floor, where she’d be working through the next two nights. From administering sponge baths (a humbling task she hadn’t performed since much earlier in her career), to dispensing critical medication, to spreading cheer with teddy bears, Rachel moved tirelessly from task to task. It didn’t matter that none of them were within her job description. She felt privileged to help maintain care continuity throughout a one-in-1,000-year event.
Rachel’s altruism didn’t end with her patients, however. A while into her stay, she turned her attention to her fellow nurses and doctors, some of whom had been working continuously since before she had arrived. Putting on yet another hat, Rachel took it upon herself to organize a morale-boosting event for these colleagues. Braving the ravaged roads for a second time, Rachel set out with Dr. Hammond on a grocery run, returning with candy and popcorn for an impromptu movie night.
Finally, mid-week, Rachel returned home, exhausted but fulfilled. Not only had she held herself to her characteristically high standard (Harvey, wasn’t her first rodeo – she had similarly hunkered down at her hospital in 2008 for Hurricane Ike), but she had also grown closer to her colleagues. She had only started full time at Pearland Medical Center six months earlier, but now its doctors, nurses, and even patients felt like family. Gratified, she hugged her children and settled in for a well-deserved nap.