‘I love what I do’: Austin nurse treks through snow to help patients

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — While most people in Austin were hunkering down and trying to stay warm, labor and delivery nurse Brooke Wilson was getting ready for work.

When she stepped out the door early Monday morning, she found her driveway covered in snow, with a thick layer of ice underneath. She knew driving to her shift wasn’t an option. Neither was calling out. Babies, she explained, don’t wait for storm to clear.

“I knew people were still going to come in, too, in labor and trying to have their babies,” she said. “I figured I wasn’t that far away, and so I could make it happen. So, I did.” 

Wilson didn’t have snow gear, so she laced up her hiking boots — the next best thing — and made the more than half hour trip to St. David’s Women’s Center of Texas.

“I’d rather walk in the snow and come to work, than not work this job,” she said.

She was on the schedule to work Tuesday and Wednesday, too, so she packed a bag and plans to stay at the hospital. Wilson noted that she knew other nurses wouldn’t be able to safely make the trip, so she’s planning to stay as long as she’s needed.

St. David’s nurse Brooke Wilson walked more than 30 minutes in the snow to get to work on Monday. (Photo provided by Brooke Wilson)

A spokesperson for St. David’s said their hospitals were providing sleeping arrangements, toiletries, meal vouchers and shower facilities for employees, “so that they do not have to travel to and from the hospital while the roadways are unsafe and can remain at the hospital to continue to care for patients.”

Their Disaster Pay Policy accounts for staff to be paid their base rate the entire time they are in the hospital, even while they sleep. Plus, the spokesperson said employees are also given an hourly disaster stipend while working through this storm.

Wilson said the dedication of her employer and co-workers kept her going on the long walk, and it’s what has kept her going throughout the pandemic.

“Coming here and wearing the mask… It’s easy whenever you love it,” she said. “That’s what makes it worth it, coming here everyday — it’s the patient population, as well as just my co-workers and my work family here.”

KXAN reached out to the other major hospitals for their plans to handle staffing during the next few days.

A spokesperson for Ascension Seton hospitals and Dell Children’s Medical Center said they will remain open and staffed as usual. 

“All of our hospitals have an emergency response plan in place to provide uninterrupted patient care,” the spokesperson said.

They also noted that residents should not wait to get care if they are experiencing a medical emergency.

A spokesperson for Baylor Scott & White said they prepare throughout the year for emergencies like this, hosting drills, testing backup power sources and practicing their emergency communication systems.

“Our leaders worked over the past week to prepare — making arrangements for team members to remain onsite at the hospital and at nearby hotels to accommodate those working during this unprecedented and prolonged winter storm,” they said.

They also noted they were seeing an increase in weather-related injuries in their emergency departments. The spokesperson reminded people to utilize their virtual care options, if possible.

IN-DEPTH: EMS operating at ‘maximum capacity’

Austin-Travis County EMS leadership begged people to stay home on Monday. By 5:30 p.m., their crews reported responding to more than 1,000 emergency calls by this evening. During the full 24-hour period on Sunday, they only responded to 743 calls.

They said most of the calls on Monday were “preventable” injuries, from car accidents, falls or exposure to the cold.

They asked anyone who can to stay inside and off the roads, in order to help reduce the call load and allow them to focus on patients who are most in-need. They’ve added six single-unit response vehicles to their operations to help, as they continue to operate at “maximum capacity.” 

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