HCA Healthcare Heroes brave the storm to provide critical aid to Hurricane Dorian survivors

16-year-old boy Ezequiel with sits on couch with bandage on his left leg as nurse Allie Biess squats next to him
(September 2019) Memorial Hospital Jacksonville nurse Allie Biess collaborated with medical relief team members to address, clean and properly dress 16-year-old Ezequiel’s wounds in the Bahamas.

HCA Healthcare Heroes are brave. They are resilient. And they deliver on our mission to care for and improve human life both inside and outside of our hospital walls. As we head into hurricane season, meet a courageous group of heroes from affiliate Memorial Hospital Jacksonville who braved the storm when Hurricane Dorian wreaked havoc on the Bahamas last year…

Ten months ago, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded battered the Bahamas. With peak winds at 185-mph, Hurricane Dorian made landfall on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019 and damaged structures, took hundreds of lives, erased entire neighbors and left survivors traumatized.

Amid the chaos, a handful of HCA Healthcare Heroes spread light in a dark moment by providing critical medical aid.

With the Bahamas often being considered the back yard of Florida, the Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration cruise ship became a lifeline – delivering supplies and volunteers to the devastated area.

When the call went out for volunteers, physicians, nurses and other colleagues from affiliate Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida packed their cars with supplies donated from the hospital and drove to the cruise ship’s port in West Palm Beach. They boarded the ship as part of the Bahamas Relief Cruise without hesitation.

Ten adults standing together indoors with medical and disaster recovery supplies
(September 2019) Providing aid to the Bahamas, colleagues at HCA Healthcare’s Memorial Hospital packaged and sorted medical and disaster recovery supplies.

Caring for others is at the heart of everything we do as an organization. “We are all individually, and as an organization, really great about being involved and jumping into whatever we think is going to help the community,” said Allie Biess, ICU nurse at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville.

“If you see someone hurting, and you can do anything, I just don’t know why you wouldn’t,” Allie adds.

Did you know?

As Hurricane Dorian inched toward the Southeast U.S., HCA Healthcare emergency response teams operating out of regional offices in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and our corporate headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. stood ready to respond. Our CodeReady system allows us to monitor and assess the situation and provide real-time perspective to command teams, while our evacuNATE algorithm helps us reduce hospital evacuation time using real-time triage data.

The cruise ship was transformed into a makeshift hospital, and Dr. David Siebert, a hospitalist at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, and his team were assigned the role to set up a ‘home triage’ hospital on the ship.

Once the ship had docked in the Bahamas, medical relief teams were sent on land to deliver roughly 225,000 pounds of medical equipment along with other supplies to the city of Freeport.

Dr. Frederick Jenkins, emergency department medical director at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, asked to drive around the island going door to door to see what help was needed most. It became evident that dehydration and treating patients with chronic issues who had lost everything, including medication, were the highest priorities.

The makeshift medical bar in the cruise ship quickly saw an influx of survivors from the island needing medical treatment. Diabetics lacked insulin. Those with high-blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias and stroke issues were without medication. Skin issues, including fungal rashes, were on the rise as a result of no running water.

In addition to the medical treatment given, Dr. Michael Baptista, bariatric surgeon at Memorial Hospital Jacksonville explained that the relief efforts delivered so much more.

“I think the thing we brought the most for the people there was hope,” said Dr. Baptista. “We gave them hope that someone cares about them. We gave them hope that the help will continue.”

“We were absolutely carrying out the mission of HCA Healthcare by doing this – to provide wonderful care to the people in the community, and obviously in this case the community extended a lot further out,” said Dr. Jenkins.

He continued, “To help people directly like this that were so devastated, is just tremendous. I mean we do that every day in the emergency department, but this was kind of on a different level and in a totally different context – so it was really rewarding to do it. I would encourage anybody who has the opportunity to do the same thing.”

A man and a woman walk around rubble from homes destroyed by a storm
(September 2019) Palms West Hospital nurse Brittany Reidy served as the medical director for the Bahamas Relief Cruise.

Serving as the medical director for the Bahamas Relief Cruise, nurse Brittany Reidy was determined to continue helping in the most ravaged areas. After the Bahamas Relief Cruise completed its maiden voyage, the relief mission made additional trips, under Brittany’s medical leadership, to continue serving those in need. Brittany – who specializes in critical care trauma and emergency services – serves patients at HCA Healthcare sister facility, Palms West Hospital, in Loxahatchee, Fla.

Thank you to Travis Horn and Cristy Nielsen for their work in capturing images to help document this story.

An automobile sits submerged in  wood and rubble after a storm

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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