Parkridge Medical Center nurse Anita Flynn received the Tennessee Hospital Association’s 2012 Healthcare Hero Award at a special reception in Nashville. Ms. Flynn, 58, was nominated by her coworkers and administrators at Parkridge because of her extraordinary service to several members of her community both during and after the April 27, 2011 tornadoes.
On that spring day last year, elective surgeries were cancelled at Parkridge because of the severe weather and Anita was released early from work. She returned to her home in Ider, AL, where she soon received a call for assistance from the Ider Rescue Squad. The area had just been hit hard by tornado activity and wounded survivors and casualties were pouring into the Rescue Squad headquarters. Alongside other members of her community, Anita sprang into action, triaging patients, cleaning out ambulances, and providing other assistance as needed.
After several hours of caring for the wounded and trying to account for the dead, she and her fellow rescue squad workers received word that yet another tornado was on its way. Despite this news, Anita and her colleagues at the rescue center continued to triage patients and provide whatever help was possible. As the evening wore on, Anita and her fellow rescue center staff found that the closest hospitals were becoming overwhelmed with wounded.
When four people whose home had been destroyed by a direct hit from a tornado sought help at the Rescue Squad Headquarters, it was quickly determined that their injuries were beyond what the Rescue Squad could handle. Calls were made to the local facilities to see if they could take a few more patients. The closest facilities recommended that the Rescue Squad staff get the four to a Chattanooga hospital, so Anita and her crew wasted no time in loading the injured family into the back of the Rescue Squad’s only ambulance for the long drive. The ambulance’s transmission was damaged badly by storm debris, lasting just long enough to get the patients and crew into the driveway of Chattanooga’s trauma center. When they arrived, Anita stayed to assist as long as needed.
After the storms passed, Anita took a week off from work to help family, friends and fellow employees begin the slow process of reclaiming their lives from storm damage. She mowed lawns, moved debris and assisted with cleanup efforts in whatever way she could. When Anita discovered that her in-laws lost their home to tornado damage, she moved them into her own home while theirs was being rebuilt. In the months that followed, Anita continued to assist her friends, neighbors and coworkers as needed, playing a vital part in the recovery of her community.
When the THA sent the Healthcare Hero Award nomination forms to Parkridge earlier this year, her coworkers immediately seized the opportunity to recognize Anita for her extraordinary efforts. In July, the hospital received word that she had won the award. “Anita responded to an unbelievably challenging situation with extraordinary courage and energy,” said Darlene Abercrombie, RN, Anita’s coworker and a fellow north Alabama resident. “She helped me and so many others in our area to recover from the terrible destruction of the storms. She is our hero, and I am so proud that she was chosen for this award.”