20070103

Travel Nurse: Florida Tornado Victim

Several years ago I started keeping a journal of my travel nursing experiences. Last night I decided to read back through some of my entries from last year and one incident in particular caught my attention. The names and places of the incident have been omitted to protect patient confidentiality, but all of the other facts are as I experienced them.

Patient with Multiple Contusions, Lacerations and Fractures
One evening while working on an orthopedic (bone related) floor a young man was brought into the unit with multiple contusions (bruises), lacerations (cuts) and fractures (broken bones). He had been stabilized in the Emergency Room after many hours of work by doctors and nurses before being transferred to my floor.

The young man had broken four ribs, one arm, one leg in two places and had a head injury. He was also clearly experiencing psychological pain from what had happened to him. My first thought was “why would anybody ride a motorcycle without a helmet?” But this was no motorcycle accident. In fact, it probably would have been better had the man actually been in a motorcycle accident.

No, this man had experienced what it is like first hand to be sucked into a tornado.

“It Was Just Like Being Flushed Down The Toilet”
Two nights before I had him as a patient, the young man, his sister, his niece and nephew were sitting in their mobile home watching TV when they heard a noise outside. He said the noise sounded “like a train engine barreling down” on them. The family jumped off the couch where they were sitting and began running toward the bathtub. He, his niece and his nephew made it to the tub before the tornado began ripping their mobile home to pieces.

The young man said that he watched from the tub as the ceiling of the mobile home was ripped off and his sister was sucked out and disappeared into the dark. He then tried to cling to his niece as she was pulled out of the tub. He was unable to hold onto her and she too was sucked out. The last thing he recalled was feeling extreme pressure pushing and pulling on his body and then he was pulled out of the tub into a swirling funnel.

When the rescue team finally found him many hours later he was laying in a ditch several hundred yards away from where the mobile home had been and a portion of the mobile home was on top of him. His sister and niece had been killed. I am not sure of the status of his nephew. The last I heard the nephew was still in intensive care.

In all of my years as a travel nurse, I don’t think I have ever taken care of a patient who has gone through anything as surreal sounding as what this patient experienced.