Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fauquier Hospital Braves the Blizzard of 2010

Sometimes an emergency occurs unexpectedly, and an instantaneous reaction is necessary. Other times, you can see it coming. Such has been the case with the blizzard of 2010. For nearly a week now, we have heard forecasts predicting up to 2 feet of snow.

Instead of a last-minute rush to the store for bread and milk, it’s been a four-day meander to the store for bread and milk. There was time to search in numerous shops for snow shovels and ice scrapers and to locate the sleds in the back of the garage.

Fauquier Hospital, too, benefited from the advanced warning. Almost 90 employees arranged to stay overnight at the hospital so they could be there for their shifts without having to brave the elements. Beds or cots were found for all, and extra food was brought in to feed everyone. Soup and sandwiches were available through the evening for volunteers and EMS workers.

Movies were set up in one of the conference rooms for those between shifts, and hot chocolate flowed freely in the Bistro.

The atmosphere has been cheerful and relaxed. There has been more than enough time for those between shifts to share conversation and laughter. Fauquier Hospital is a pleasant place anyway, but the “we’re all in this together” feeling is something special.

There has been time this evening to listen to the stories of my co-workers.

Pranita works in the Nutrition Services Department. She is a native of Bombay, India, and returns often to spend a month working in an orphanage there owned by her uncle. She was working in an Indian hospital, cooking and taking care of people, when she met her husband – a guitar-playing missionary from the U.S. They were married within three weeks and have been together nine years.

Pranita says she loves working at Fauquier Hospital. “I love to help people. I bring people their meals and help them if they need something opened. I like to talk to them. Sometimes after my shift I will stop back to see how they are doing. One lady asked me to sing to her so I sang a song I wrote. She liked it very much and told me, ‘I will never forget this hospital.’ ”

When I mentioned Pranita to two of my roommates as we settled in, they both laughed, thinking about her bubbly personality and talkative nature.

Then, as the storm raged outside our window, they remembered the blizzard of 1996. During that storm, a doctor they knew got stuck in a snowdrift near her home when there was no one else around. “The snow was over her head,” said Patty. “She remembered she had a cell phone and called her husband, but was afraid he would never find her. She held her cell phone up to the hole in the snow so he would be able to see the light and find her.”

Janice remembers having to stay at the hospital during that blizzard, too. “It was very different then. We slept on the floors, on cots in the OR, anywhere there was a space. It was wonderful. We had so much fun.”

Patty and Janice are both longtime employees at Fauquier Hospital. Janice has worked for the hospital for 30 years; Patty is a 15-year veteran.

Unprompted, they spoke for a long time about the wonderful doctors they have worked with over the years. One doctor would go to a patient’s home to check on them … another stayed up all night in the ICU holding the hand of a sick patient … still another braved the ’96 snowstorm to get them all pizza.

It’s 1 a.m. and quiet now. My co-workers are asleep or working the night shift in another part of the hospital. The men and women in the Maintenance Department will work through the night, plowing and shoveling.

In the morning, the National Guard may arrive to help with transportation issues.

Time enough then to share more stories, or perhaps make some new ones to tell during the Blizzard of 2020.

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