Alumni Volunteer for Hurricane Relief
Alumni Volunteer for Hurricane Relief

Katie Nedley, OTD’12, BSHS’12

Katie Nedley, OTD’12, BSHS’12For Houston-based occupational therapist Katie Nedley, a dedication to her patients at TIRR Memorial Hermann rehabilitation hospital, in the Texas Medical Center, meant working overnight during the worst of the city’s recent flooding.

An Omaha native, Nedley has lived in Texas for nearly five years. Her team at TIRR Memorial Hermann primarily works with patients who have sustained traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries or have had limbs amputated.As rain started falling on Houston, and flooding intensified, the hospital began lining up staff members who could still travel to work. Nedley lives one mile from the hospital but still experienced some difficulties making it through flooded streets and fast-moving water. “I was holed up in my apartment, trying to figure out what was going to happen next, also knowing that the hospital needed staff to relieve others who had been there overnight,” she said.

When the waters receded, Nedley went to the hospital, prepared to stay for a few days in case the rains started again. After a full day of work with many patients, she curled up in a dark office to get some rest. Instead of working one on one with her regular patients as normal, during the height of the storm she and other therapists were assigned to floors of the hospital.“We wanted our patients to remain as active as possible while we were riding out the worst of the storm,” she says.While Nedley only had to spend one night at TIRR Memorial Hermann, she was prepared to go the extra mile for her patients.

Now, even though the flooding has subsided, the effects of the storm are still being seen at the hospital. “We’ve gotten a lot of patients since the hurricane,” she said. “We are definitely coming across a lot more consequences of the storm, and we need to be creative to problem-solve.” That includes patients who were injured shortly before or after the storm and are just now transitioning to start rehabilitation, and longtime patients who lost everything in the floodwaters. “Many individuals may have had everything they needed before, but when evacuating, they weren’t able to take their power chair and are completely immobile,” Nedley said. “We are being creative with resources, and are advocates for these patients. I think we will still see the effects from (the storm and flooding) for months, and even years, to come.”

Marco Martino, PharmD’11, BSHS’11

Marco Martino, PharmD’11, BSHS’11After learning of the devastation that hit Houston after Hurricane Harvey, Marco Martino knew he had to go the extra mile to help. He learned of volunteer opportunities in Texas through the American Society of Health System Pharmacists, and quickly signed up to assist. Martino, who is an outpatient oncology pharmacist at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, also had to apply for a temporary pharmacy license to practice in Texas, a process that was expedited for volunteers after the natural disaster.

A day after receiving that license, Martino took a flight to Houston, where he spent a jam-packed 24 hours working at the NRG Center, which served as a temporary shelter during the aftermath of severe flooding in the city. He arrived two weeks after the storm hit. By that point, he said, individuals in the shelter were starting to run out of medications. So the team of physicians, pharmacists and nurses worked quickly to provide medical care and fill prescriptions on a short-term basis. Martino said he also passed out a wide variety of over-the-counter medications. He also assisted with a patient who had a drug overdose.

“I was amazed at the variety of services that were offered in the NRG Center,” Martino said. “It was like a little city; there were AA meetings, prayer services and even a barber shop.” The nearly 2,000 individuals who were staying at the shelter also had access to lawyers, government officials and nonprofit organizations.

One thing he took away from the experience was the reminder that natural disasters “don’t discriminate,” in who they affect, he said. “It was very humbling.” Martino said he would definitely volunteer in a situation like this again, and encourages other health care providers to do the same.

Sven Normann, BSPha’78, PharmD

Sven Normann, BSPha’78, PharmDThis fall, Sven Normann, BSPha’78, PharmD, spent 17 days in Puerto Rico, where he assisted with medical services in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which caused catastrophic damage to the U.S. territory. But while he was en route, he discovered he was in the company of another Creighton graduate: Daniel Pojar, BSEMS’10. “It was really cool to know we were both Bluejays,” Normann said.

Normann’s interest in disaster-relief efforts ties back to a long pharmacy career with various poison control centers and teaching a disaster planning and response course as a faculty member at the University of Florida. He currently lives in Gainesville, Florida. He traveled to Puerto Rico with National Disaster Medical Systems, a federal government agency that mobilizes health care professionals – such as physicians, pharmacists, nurses, physician assistants and paramedics – in the wake of disasters to help fill care gaps. He joined the group several years ago and is currently a member of the Florida 6 DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team).

The groups train to prepare for deployment and practice setting up medical tents, generators and other pieces of equipment to provide care on a regular basis. “You name it, we have it,” Normann said of the teams. “We can handle anything from a small cut or rash to a patient in cardiac arrest.” Normann’s team was originally deployed to Texas after Hurricane Harvey, but once Hurricane Irma was headed on a path toward Florida, the team members returned to prepare their homes for the impending storm. A few weeks later, Normann was sent to Puerto Rico with a team from Alabama. “Our mission was to provide support to a hospital in southeast Puerto Rico, which was near the storm’s site of impact,” Normann said. “When we arrived, there was no power in the community.” 

The team took care of patients who had minor injuries or issues, which allowed the hospital to focus on more serious cases. Normann and the team’s other pharmacist worked 12-hour shifts to distribute over-the-counter and prescription medications. His team received a high-profile visitor: Jerome Adams, MD, the U.S. Surgeon General, and Robert Kadlec, MD, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s assistant secretary for preparedness and response.  The devastation from the storm was highly visible while he was in Puerto Rico, Normann said, and his team was happy to “take care of our fellow Americans.”