10 Years of Recovery: DCH Nurses Remember Hospital’s Ordeal After Tornado

Many heroes were forged on April 27, 2011, including the health care professionals at DCH Regional Medical Center. WVUA’s Chelsea Barton sat down with two nurses who worked together that day and remember what it was like in an emergency room flooded with nameless patients and endless sorrow.

“Some days it feels like it has been 20 years. Some days it feels like it was yesterday,” Sharon Allen said.

Sharon Allen and Sharon Oakley were working alongside each other in the trauma unit on April 27, 2011; both started their shifts assigned to caring for a 2-year-old girl.

“I remember we looked out the window and it was pitch black,” Oakley said. “You could see debris rotating around. It was very frightening. I laid over the top part (of the patient), Sharon laid across the legs of this 2-year-old. We just kind of protected her.  Then it just kind of went away.”

It didn’t take long for the Sharons to realize hundreds of their neighbors were not as fortunate.

“They just kept coming,” Allen said. “They were bringing them in on headboards, on doors.”

Allen said long after the tornado, she had someone message her on Facebook and say he saw her on “Faces of the Storm,” which aired in 2012.

“He said ‘I came in on an orange door,’ ” Allen said. “I remembered him because you don’t get many patients on an orange door. It’s just the little things you remember and the patients you remember.”

So much destruction caused, and thousands of people displaced. With DCH still standing, many saw it as their only place to turn.

“We knew no names,” Oakley said. “We’d be walking around with a baby on our hip and have no idea of the baby or the child or who their parents were. No one had a name that day.”

Allen said she especially remembers her first patient from the storm, who was a University of Alabama student. She said not one day has gone by over the last decade that she hasn’t thought about that person.

“I just wanted him to get well,” she said. “Unfortunately, that was not what happened. It’s hard. It’s hard because he is so young. He is just getting started. If he were here, would he be married, would he have children?”

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