Chapter 10: It’s just a little wind and water

We’ve been having a lot of rain lately per usual, but for whatever reason, it seems to have a little more intensity behind it this spring. We have clinical scheduled on Thursdays and our class is split up and assigned various practice sites. One of our classmates jokingly asked if clinical ever got ‘rained out’. You know, like a baseball game, he said.

Our instructor took this opportunity to go on a tirade about how healthcare is a 24/7 job and if thought we didn’t have to show up because of a little rain, then now was the time to choose another career. The tirade went on for quite some time.

24 hours later

I’m at one of the two large hospitals in our area. There are 6 of us total; 3 in one ICU and 3 in another ICU. About 11AM we get an overhead page telling us to report to a specific area. Our instructor tells us rain has cause one of the back-up generators to fail, and there is the potential for the others to fail as well. Until further notice, we are to hang out in ICU and wait for impending power failure. We are briefed on what will happen when (note when not if) the generators fail. All ventilators and other life saving equipment will stop. Our job as students is to take the Ambu bag and manually breathe for the patient for as long as necessary.

20 minutes later the power goes out. All 4 back-up generators fail and the hospital is dark. And quiet. I mean it’s daytime so there’s some light coming in and it’s full of people so there is that kind of noise, but none of the associated beeping one associates with an ICU. For two solid hours, us students manually breathe for these patients. The actual RTs are doing two at a time.

Disaster relief is trying to figure out how water got in the building and caused the generators to fail. Meanwhile my hand is developing cramps. We switch off and I get a little break, but the hospital is a complete disaster.

Our clinical ends at 3p, but no one can go anywhere. The area around the hospital is flooded and besides, and perhaps more importantly, there still isn’t power to power the generators. Around 5p, 3 of the 4 back-up generators are functioning we enough. The rain outside has slacked up, but the water is still everywhere. No one is going anywhere any time soon.

The job at the hospital is understanding when I explain the situation and how I’m stuck at another hospital. Thankfully, it’s summer so it’s still daylight when we are finally able to leave the building. The water is receding, but damage has been done. To the hospital and to all the housing around it.

Class is still scheduled for the following day because ‘hey, it’s just a little water, right?

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