FIVE YEARS LATER: DCH WORKERS REMEMBER HOURS PASSING, VICTIMS POURING IN
Note: This story, and many others on the April 27, 2011, tornado, aired during WVUA 23’s 1 and a half hour special program “Faces of the Storm” on April 27, 2016. If you’d like to watch the whole series, click here.
April 27, 2011, was a normal workday at DCH Regional Medical Center, until Tuscaloosa found itself in the path of an EF4 tornado.
“We handle trauma every day,” said DCH nurse Sharon Oakley. “That is nothing new for us. It’s our job. But that day was something way beyond what we could’ve imagined.”
Oakley, who’s been a nurse at DCH for 24 years, said that was the day she learned how bad it could get.
“(My boss) says we’ve got a tornado headed this way, y’all need to be prepared, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.
As the hours passed, victims poured in, and the harsh realities of a deadly day took the trauma department by storm.
“We started having them come in truck loads, in cars,” she said. “(They were) in every doorway, and that’s when it started getting bad.”
Dr. Jeremy Pepper said he was called in to work at 4:30 that afternoon. He’d worked an overnight shift the night before.
Pepper, who is a Hurricane Katrina survivor, said it was a day that rivaled a that disaster 11 years ago.
“Here, we had an influx of patients in just a couple of hours,” he said. “With Katrina, we had an influx of patients over a week.”
The patients came as quickly as the storm did, but the hospital was prepared.
“I think God was with us so much on that day because it could’ve been a lot worse,” Oakley said.