Thursday, June 12, 2008

Memories of evacuating CRH...

(First of all, this will be an extremely LONG post, but I wanted to jot down my thoughts before I forget what all happened during this tragic day that I experienced last Saturday!)

Saturday, June 7th, 2008 began as any other normal work day for me. I was up at 5:45am getting ready for a long day at work. I could hear the rain coming down on our sky-light in our bathroom and was dreading the trip across the parking lot into work. I grabbed my umbrella and headed out the door.
When I arrived at work, the rain had actually slowed down some and it was a nice steady rain. We made comments to the night shift as they were leaving about it being "good sleeping weather" and started our day.

Jonathan was home with the kids but had plans to take Parker to his ballgame at 10:30am and then had a golf tournament scheduled in Indianapolis at 1pm Saturday afternoon.
The nurses all kept watching it rain outside and several different times that morning we were commenting on how hard it was raining and that you could hardly see.

Jonathan called to say that the baseball game and golf tournament had been cancelled and that water was getting close to getting into our church again. (Our church was flooded in July of 1997 and had to be completely "gutted.") We were so afraid it was going to happen again.

Later that morning, Jonathan called me at work saying that Franklin, Indiana was flooded and he was going to rescue our friends, Montie and Elaine Dunn from their home. At work we were also hearing rumors of Franklin Hospital's ER being under water. None of us thought to turn on the T.V. in an empty room and we went about caring for our patients. It was a busy Saturday.

The rain had stopped by noon and we thought all was well in our little world of the Birthing Center! I didn't stop to think about if Franklin was flooded that it would soon be heading our way. I kept looking out my patient's window's at Hawcreek that runs in front of the hospital. Earlier in the day I could see the park bench by the creek, by afternoon, that bench was no where to be seen. A short time later, the operator came across the intercom in a panicked voice asking all visitors to exit the hospital immediately. Rumors were flying that the hospital basement had been flooded below us. All housekeeping staff went running off our unit. Again the operator came across and announced that if you were parked in the front or side lots to please move your vehicles. I ran to look out the window and was completely shocked to find muddy water, rushing towards us. The back employee lot where my vehicle was parked was starting to be flooded as well. I called Jonathan to tell him that the parking lots were flooding and we were being asked to move our vehicles. The water wasn't at my vehicle so I stayed on the unit while several nurses ran to their cars. When they got back they were telling how fast the water was coming so I literally ran across the lot to my SUV. There was only one exit at this point and that was to drive up the ramp between the hospital buildings. I got my car moved around to the front of the hospital and went walking back to the back lot where I had just come from a few minutes earlier. The entire lot was now under water and had I not moved my vehicle when I did, it would've been flooded. There were several cars in the lot that were now under water. I waded through water to get back into the hospital. The back lot was beginning to look like a muddy ocean. I had been talking to Jonathan at this time and it was now 4:51pm. He said he would come get my vehicle and pick me up from work later that evening when I clocked out...
I got back on the unit and went into a patient's room to check on her and it got extremely quiet while I was in the room. By that I mean, no air moving, no computer's humming, no lights on, etc. I checked to see if the buttons on her bed worked and they did. I said, "Did we just lose power?" Some didn't think so because stuff was working. We didn't realize we were running on generators. A very short time later, the generators blew and CRH had lost all power. (Those red outlets that are to always have power, didn't....) My very first thought through my mind was, "Oh no...what about the patient's in ICU on ventilators!!!!" I calmly walked out of my patient's room to a very dark hallway. Nurses and Techs were all standing around not knowing exactly what to do. About that time, the operator came across and announced in a very panicky voice, "Attention...we have a Code 10 Emergency!" (That meant a disaster!) We found flash lights and grabbed our disaster manuals in hopes to find out what to do next. Unfortunately, there was nothing in the manual to tell us what to do in case of a flood! We went around and explained to our patients that the basement was flooded and we had lost power. We quickly found out that we also had no phone lines so no access to the outside world. A few nurses had cell phones with them but we had very limited access due to over crowded phone lines during this time. We tried to call our boss and charge nurses for help. One of the OB doctor's was there with us and thankfully was a huge help. We heard that water was now flooding the first floor which meant the entire basement, with 8-12 feet walls,was full and rising. Now we were being told that we were evacuating the entire hospital immediately. We passed out prescriptions, car seats, formula, diapers, etc. and grabbed all available wheelchairs and down the hallways we went. By now it was mid-evening and quite dark in certain areas of the hospital where there were no windows. Dr. Davis and I had a particular patient that had just been out of surgery for approx 1 hour. She was our first to get off the unit. He took off with her and I quickly followed behind them carrying the baby. Up to this point, all had been fairly calm on our unit. As we got to the only possible exit of the hospital, there were crowds of people. This is when it hit me that we were in a true life, disaster! God helped our patient to be able to stand and walk down the stairs with our assistance, and we put her in a wheel chair at the bottom of the steps and waded through water mid-shin deep. Outside there were hundreds of employees running around, people with clipboards, code carts, gurneys with dressing supplies, oxygen tanks, ambulances, helicopters, police cars, fire trucks, loud fire alarms that were going off non-stop inside the hospital, a laptop computer set up as they were trying to track pt's, etc. The part that sticks out in my mind the most were those poor, critically ill patients, scared to death and being wheeled through water or carried down 6-7 flights of stairs to safety. The National Guard had come to help and I passed several of them dressed in their camouflage outfits, carrying out our sick, helpless patients. Many of these patients were sitting outside in the smothering heat, wearing oxygen, some were having trouble breathing, many had IV's hanging, some were shaking from fear, and at this point in time, I felt helpless. I stood there with my patient while our OB doctor was making arrangements for her to be transferred. Some time later, I helped get her on a cart and into an ambulance. I then took the baby and helped the father strap her in the car seat, gave him some formula and told him when to feed the baby again, and sent him on his way.
Back to the unit to do this all over again. The next time I went outside, the water was up higher, my hose and shoes were filled with muddy water and my dress was getting wet above my knees. We were able to safely get all of our patient's to their own personal cars or on ambulances as well as 2 of our NICU babies into a helicopter. After making sure everyone was rescued, we put tape across the doors making a statement that all rooms had been evacuated. Charts were thrown all over the nurses station, half eaten supper trays were left in the rooms, trash wasn't emptied but everyone was safe. We walked out out of our unit together, not knowing the extent of the damage beneath us and thinking that we would be back in just a few short days. As we were walking out of the hospital, we paused to look at our beautiful front lobby, covered in muddy water. Dr Davis mentioned that "We forgot to rescue the birds!" (I see in this picture from the local newspaper website that the birds have evidently been rescued since then!) We waded out of the hospital in muddy water and it was now about 9:15pm. I hadn't talked to Jonathan for hours and he had no idea what was going on in my world nor I in his. He had come to get my car earlier that evening so I was riding home with a co-worker. She had to drive through water to the bottom of her car door to get out of the parking lot. I was able to locate Jonathan via cell phone and met up with him in the Target parking lot. After I got away from the hospital that night, I began to feel shaky and began to cry while describing it to Jonathan and my Mom over the phone. That day will forever be etched in my memory. I felt like I was in a movie and it wouldn't stop. It is something that I don't ever want to live through again, but am glad that I was working that day also.

We don't know what our future holds with our jobs at CRH. We have an all-employee meeting in the morning and that should answer many questions. As you can imagine, rumors are flying but I am leaving it in God's hands.
(Some of these pictures were taken directly from our local newspaper website at Check out the website for a video clipping of inside CRH after the flooding occurred.)



All I can say is WOW!!! I know that is a day you will never forget. I'm glad all patients and employees got out safely.

Lady J

Karen, I can't imagine. I believe it was your patient's father who came and pumped water out of my crawl Saturday evening. He told me his daughter had had a c-section that morning at crh and wasn't sure where they were taking her. He eventually found out she was at Schneck. Can you believe more rain tonight? We will never think about a rain storm in the same way again-esp flash flood warnings and watches.


Karen...You didn't go on to tell about being stranded away from your children...having refugees in your home until Sunday night...your friends loosing their brother...and then them coming to spend another two nights with you...and when they left you were just beginning to start on your mountian of laundry, when one of your nurse friends called to ask you to do some laundry of another nurse who was flooded out. Is your washer still going?

Hope all goes well at the employee meeting this morning! See you later!


Jenny said it is unbelievable down there. Glad everyone is "ok".


What an awful day!

One question....birds? What kind?There weren't any birds when I worked there!


Unbelievable!!! I can't imagine what the lady who just had surgery must have been thinking! I would have been scared to death!!! Nothing like the dad having to get right down to his duties.


Karen, bless your heart, what a day you had. God was with you all the way. Please let me use your story in the Fall Pilgrim? We can edit it some, and include what your Mom said about being stranded from your children and keeping people. I won't need the story until the end of August and maybe by then we can add some good news.
Love, Mom Walden

Tricia Grissom

All I can say is that God was definately with you and all the staff at the hospital that day. We always practice disasters, but with the hope we will never have to implement the plan. You have all been in my prayers and will continue to be!

Lady J

Karen-don't forget to tell that the fish were evacuated as well! It was so good to see you this morning-even at a distance.

Steve Hight

How sad, too, to see such a beautiful hospital facility in such ruin! I remember when they finished the remodeling and how the lobby area and the main halls leading from it looked more like a nice hotel or resort lobby than a hospital.

Well, you'll certainly have something to tell your children and grandchildren. Just don't let it become, "I had to walk through waist deep water every day to get to school." :-)


I tried to leave a comment earlier, but it doesn't seem to be here. Yes, I think I did see you on the news. I pulled it up Sunday morning on the internet, and it was channel 6, just a brief clip. If you go to channel 6 news, and click on video of "100's evacuated from Columbus regional" it should pull it up. The nurse I saw was wearing a blue scrub dress and had shoulder length dark hair.
We prayed for you when we heard about the evacuation. Wow! Sounds really intense. Hope things are getting back to normal! Glad ya'll are okay.


What an experience! Wow. You will be glad you jotted all that down someday. I can't imagine going thru that. Unbelievable!


Karen, thanks for posting your experience - it was so interesting!! Sounds like you and the other staff did a wonderful job of reacting!! Hopefully all the patients were okay. Was any poor souls in labor or delivery at the time? That would be horror plus horror! Have you heard if everyone made it from ICU, etc.? I'll try to get LuRhe and J to come read if I remember. Glad your house was okay too!!


Very good commentary Karen; you should publish it in The Republic! It makes me sick to think about what CRH looks like now. I saw a short clip of a CRH press conference on The Republic web site today-over $25 million in damage and probably more! Unbelievable. We got 4 patients transferred from there to the hospital where I work and when they brought the 4th one they said, that's all we can bring; the roads are closing. We have disaster drills but never really think it will happen. But I'm glad everyone got out safely. I sure feel for the people in Iowa now!


I do believe you are right, Cindy. It looks like Karen; she is standing with a lady in a wheelchair and a guy holding an infant car seat.

Angie Davis

This refugee is very thankful for your hospitality! :) What a mess--I'm so sad to see that beautiful hospital so torn up. Glad to hear things worked out well for your job, though...

Karen Walden

That was me ladies!!!! :) I was standing with the patient I had described in my post. She was the one who had only been out of surgery for about an hour. We were standing in water waiting for an ambulance! The Dad is holding the baby in the carseat.

I had no idea I was famous!!! HA!


Wow! Thanks for sharing! Was anyone in labor at that point?

Karen Walden

To answer everyone's questions...

No, we did not have anyone in labor, thank goodness. No one was still numb from an epidural...

The two babies in NICU were not on oxygen although one did have a scalp IV. (These two babies were the last two patients to be evacuated from the hospital and one of our anesthologist's stayed with them as well as our nurses...)

No one on ventilators in ICU died to stop that rumor. There were a total of 3 vent patients and they all survived.

There was a patient in surgery, had been put to sleep and the doctor was just getting ready to "cut..." but thankfully hadn't. That patient survived as well and was life-lined to another hospital...

The morgue is on the main floor, not in the basement so NO there were no corpsus floating around down there...

They are NOT tearing down the hospital...

The birds and fish were saved!!!!
We have a huge bird cage in the lobby now and volunteers take care of them. We also have a couple of huge fish tanks with some really neat fish. They were saved as well by the National Guard!!!

So...there you have it!!! :)
Feel better???

Greg & Anna's Cubs

I had surgery with both of my kids and I can't imagine walking flights of stairs one hour after. God must have given her strength. Your family must be proud of you. You are a true nurse.


Ha, I hadn't heard any of those rumors, Karen, but they must be just a flyin' around down there. The one about bodies floating cracked me up. I just didn't realize they had birds....or fish for that matter.

The comment above was mine!

Jody J

Just getting caught up on blogs. Wow! Thanks for sharing your story. What a nightmare! Glad you're safe and got good news about your job! I can't imagine you flipping burgers. :)


We would really love to have your photos... to post on our site If you wasn't aware we are haveing a free showing of the DVD we have compiled at the YES Cinema tonight at 7pm everyone welcome...