Nurse's 'thanks' comes in helping after Irma

Posted 11/23/17

People shows their thankfulness in many ways, expressing appreciation for their individual lives, their families, their community and the world in general.Tammy Stevison, an RN at the Bradley County …

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Nurse's 'thanks' comes in helping after Irma


People shows their thankfulness in many ways, expressing appreciation for their individual lives, their families, their community and the world in general.

Tammy Stevison, an RN at the Bradley County Health Department, began showing her gratitude a couple of months before the Thanksgiving season this year, assisting people in need following Hurricane Irma.

Stevison responded to an appeal from the Tennessee Department of Health back in September, joining a group of 40 nurses from across the state in assisting in Florida.

The Tennessee Strike Team included 40 nurses, and four volunteers from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Stevison said in a recent interview that she felt the e-mail from TDH seeking volunteers was an opportunity for her to give back to a greater need, to assist where her skills were valuable during a time of emergency.

"They were reaching out to anyone who might be able to volunteer," she said. "I felt moved to go."

Health Department Director Eloise Waters, and Stevison's co-workers, stepped up to cover her responsibilities here during the two weeks she was away.

Stevison, and other strike team members, gathered at the National Guard Center  in Chattanooga on Sept. 7, before leaving for Florida.  They were provided details and other information relating to the relief effort.

That Saturday, they journeyed South to Tallahassee, spending the night in a warehouse when they arrived. 

The strike team received additional instructions the next morning, and then traveled to a grade school building and shelter in Palatka, Fla.

"When we arrived the power was out, and it was kind of scary," remembered Stevison. "We tried to get some sleep before continuing our trip to Miami," where there were thousands of evacuees, she said.

The next morning, plans changed. Officials coordinating the relief effort decided to send the team westward across the state to a rescue/relief facility in Naples, Fla.

Stevison said that when they arrived at Palmetto High School in Naples, there was considerable flooding, with some roadways underwater. 

There were some evacuees at the high school, but the majority of the individuals (about 200) were people with special needs.

"We met with their team leaders, and they told us of the emergency conditions," Stevison said. "Power was out, and we were running on a backup generator."

"The people we were responsible for needed oxygen, oxygen concentrate, C-Pap machines, wheelchairs and walkers," she said. Stevison, the nursing team, and the individuals in need of care were at the high school for eight days, although most of the regular evacuees left the shelter after the hurricane passed through.

"I felt honored to represent our state, and to volunteer my skills as a nurse," said Stevison after returning to Cleveland. "I met a lot of people, and made some lasting friends."

She said the experience was very humbling. "We slept on cots like the hurricane victims did, worked 12-hour shifts,  and didn't take a shower for days. It was not glamorous."

Stevison said she discovered one valuable lesson: She now knows exactly how many bottles of drinking water are needed to take a shower.

The Health Department RN is originally from Illinois, her family moving to Tennessee when she was 14. She has a brother Wayne, and sisters, Marion and Denise, who live in the area.

She attended Bradley Central High School and married her husband, Jeff, shortly after. They have two children, Austin, 21, and Riley, 18.

She is a 1994 graduate of the Cleveland State Community College Nursing Program, and worked at the old Bradley Memorial Hospital and at Bradley Dialysis prior to joining the Health Department team in 2008, as an RN and clinical nurse. 


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