Hinton, W.Va. – As the one year anniversary of the devastating June 23 floods that occurred throughout West Virginia approaches, one American Medical Facilities Management (AMFM) center reflects on the hectic days that followed and how two friends refused to be separated after their skilled nursing center was caught in the path of major flooding.
Per meteorologists at the National Weather Service, West Virginia got as much as 10 inches of rain over a 12-24-hour period. This qualifies as a “1,000 Year Flood,” and parts of Kanawha, Fayette, Nicholas and Greenbrier counties were devastated.
As the aftermath unfolded over several days, 23 people had lost their lives and hundreds of homes, businesses and roads were gone. A state of emergency was declared in 44 of W.Va.’s 55 counties, and on June 25 President Obama declared W.Va. a major disaster area.
Today, many areas are still rebuilding. For two Nicholas County residents, that long road of rebuilding led to their new home at Summers Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (N&RC).
Edward D. Murphy, 63 and Adren “Dolan” Kelly, 97 had formed a bond while living at the Nicholas County Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (N&RC). Even though both lived in the community of Fenwick along the Cherry River in Nicholas County, it was their time as roommates that led to a deep friendship between the two men and their families.
“That little boy over there,” Dolan said referring to Murphy. “I remember him being a baby, wrapped in a blanket, and I’ve helped to look after him.”
Dolan, who had been driving until he was 93, had been at the center about 19 months when the flood came through. As the waters rose, the 96 residents at Nicholas County Nursing & Rehabilitation Center were evacuated to Liberty Baptist Church, which sits on higher ground. The residents were sleeping on cots and the pews as donations of food and clothes were coming to the church.
The residents were well cared for by the employees of Nicholas County Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. Many of those residents and employees had been there together for many years, so when the time came for them to transfer around the state, it was a very emotional scene.
Carla Peters, Clinical Liaison for AMFM, was on stand-by on the evening of the flood to be ready in the event that AMFM centers would be asked to assist any of the impacted areas. Peters’ role with AMFM is to assist families and residents with finding placement within an AMFM center for care.
She is used to moving at a fast pace to help families and AMFM centers connect. However, this was an entirely different scenario. The teams that would be transferring the residents needed supplies before heading to the flooded areas.
“Immediately, we started looking at our centers to see who had open beds,” said Peters. “We began communicating with the employees of the Nicholas center to evaluate the residents to transfer them as soon as we could.”
At Summers N&RC, the entire nursing and management teams were ready to receive the incoming patients. Because Summers N&RC had the most open beds at the time, most the flood victims were transferring to that center.
“Many of our own employees and families were having flooding issues, but they put those aside” said Shelda Cox, Executive Director for Summers N&RC. “We had been isolated from the initial flooding, and employees could not get in or out.” Emergency vehicles transported some employees, including the director of nursing, to the center.
In total, Summers N&RC admitted 18 patients in two days, with 16 of them coming on the first day. All the center’s managers and line employees stayed to get all the patients to the facility, showered, dressed in fresh clothing, and settled in as quickly as possible.
“We worked very long hours to assist those incoming patients with their quick transition to our center without sacrificing quality or safety,” Cox said.
Mercer N&RC, Fayette N&RC, Clay Health Care Center and other AMFM centers were also prepared for receiving patients over the that long June weekend.
On the last day of transfers, which was Monday June 27th, only two to three residents had not been transferred. AMFM centers worked for three days and admitted 33 of the 90 displaced patients to five AMFM centers.
When the time came for the residents at the church to find other nursing centers to transfer to under difficult conditions, Dolan refused to get on the van without Murphy. The entire process stopped, and the team reached out to find an AMFM center that had two beds available.
“He absolutely refused to leave without his friend and roommate,” said Peters. “We were only able to transport six residents at a time from the church to our Summers center.” Peters recalls. “I will never forget traveling down roads without berms, trees jutting out of the woods, passing flooded homes and cars. But it was all worth it, knowing that we got those residents to warm showers, meals and beds to sleep in that night,” said Peters.
Nearly one year later, Dolan and Kelly are still roommates and settled into life “One looks after the other,” said Murphy’s sister, Mabel Bailes. “At Christmas, we bring gifts for Dolan, and his family brings food and things for Eddie.”
“They are awfully good here,” Bailes said. “We don’t have anything to worry about.”
AMFM operates 17 skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers throughout West Virginia. They operate in Braxton, Boone, Clay, Cabell, Summers, Fayette, Hardy, Greenbrier, Webster, Wayne, McDowell, Lincoln, Wyoming, Harrison (Clarksburg & Bridgeport), Marshall and Mercer counties.
AMFM’s mission is “to exemplify excellence in quality care to our customers by providing an environment that enhances personal growth, individuality, dignity and respect.”