Coverage from UAB News about the aftermath of the April 27 tornadoes in Alabama — and stories featuring UAB sources from around the country.
Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012
Penny Anthony likes her job. She is a certified occupational therapist assistant at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Spain Rehabilitation Center. For the past 11 years she’s enjoyed helping people rebuild their lives if accident or disease left them disabled. But in November 2011, everything changed when she became a patient.
Penny was in her home in Pleasant Grove, Ala., on April 27, 2011, because a morning storm had dropped a tree branch on her house. She stayed to contact the insurer and ensure the roof didn’t leak. She has no memory of the massive tornado that roared through Pleasant Grove that afternoon and destroyed her house. Rescuers later told her they found her a block and a half away.
“I had a traumatic brain injury. Something hit me across my face and tore my scalp back, almost amputating my left ear,” she recalled as she ran through the litany of injuries. “I had a spinal-cord injury and breaks in the pinky finger of my left hand. My left leg had a tibia plateau injury (an injury at the end of the bone), and I had a lung injury and other lacerations on my body.”
After five weeks in intensive care at UAB Hospital and months more recovering at her brother’s house, she returned to Spain for outpatient rehabilitation in November. Her friends and co-workers now were her therapists.
“I’m supposed to be helping the injured patient; I’m not supposed to be the injured patient,” she said about coming to terms with her new role. “It’s opened my eyes to the rehab patient’s point of view.”
Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Chelsea Thrash, a sophomore at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, was studying for finals April 27, 2011. She was in a second-floor apartment near campus watching the news because the weather had been volatile all day. She watched as video cameras caught the massive F-4 tornado churning toward Tuscaloosa.
“I saw the tornado coming over the Black Warrior River, and I immediately went to the bathroom for shelter,” she recalled. “Probably 15 minutes later I woke up in the courtyard, and I couldn’t feel my legs.”
The entire apartment building had been destroyed. Rescuers found Chelsea, put her on a table top and got her into a pickup truck. She was taken to a triage station, then to Tuscaloosa’s DCH Hospital. MRIs showed a severe back injury, and she was loaded into an ambulance for the 50-mile journey to the Level I Trauma Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
At UAB Hospital, Chelsea joined hundreds of others victims of the 57 tornadoes that swept across North and Central Alabama that day. UAB’s trauma center admitted more than 50 of the most seriously injured, most with spinal or chest injuries.
Monday, May 23, 2011
UAB students will have a unique opportunity to be social entrepreneurs in support of their community in the wake of disaster, thanks to the generosity of several anonymous donors.
The UAB Tornado Relief Forgivable Loan Program, established through some $250,000 in gifts made to the UAB Educational Foundation, will make small loans (in most cases, in amounts of up to $1,000 each) to people affected by the April 27, 2011 tornadoes. The loans will be interest-free and due in one year, but can be forgiven completely or in part on their payback date if ongoing need is demonstrated. The program will be administered jointly by the foundation and the UAB School of Business.
Students have been recruited to participate in the program from across UAB, including the School of Business Honors Program, University Honors Program, Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, Early Medical Professional Schools Acceptance Program and Experiential Scholars Program. Participants will be given credit toward academic requirements at the discretion of these programs.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
On April 27, 2011, many residents of Alabama lost everything in the blink of an eye, leaving many people unable to see the world clearly – figuratively and literally.
“It was something; it was unbelievable. We had family members in Pratt City who lost everything. We had a tree on our house and damage, but other than that, it’s unbelievable,” says A.C. Jones Jr. Although Jones survived the storm, he lost a necessity — his eyeglasses.
The Alabama Vision Alliance, comprising the UAB School of Optometry and Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital at UAB, Sight Savers America, Lions Clubs of Alabama and Vision Service Plan, has dispatched a VSP mobile eye-care unit to the hardest hit areas to provide new lenses and eye exams.
“A lot of us can’t afford it right now by just working, especially those without insurance through their jobs, so this is really wonderful,” says Jones.
UAB optometry faculty and senior students who are staffing the bus enjoy the opportunity to help others and do what they love.
Monday, May 16, 2011
Senior Graphic Design student Katelyn Armstrong has been through this before as a 10-year-old growing up in Houston. A tornado ripped through her city in a nearby neighborhood. “It took years for the area we lived in to be able to rebuild and become normal again,” she says.
When Armstrong, a student advocate for UAB Student Government Association (SGA), was approached by SGA President Brad Watts to secure volunteers to be ready to go out Thursday and Friday, she knew just what to do.
“When the tornado first hits, they’re in the search and rescue phase and you can’t really go in and help with debris,” says Armstrong, a Madison native. “The best thing you can do is get everyone organized and wait for someone to tell you where to go. We wanted to organize 100 to 150 volunteers so we went to Facebook.”
The Blazers for Birmingham Facebook page was created, and Armstrong and other students began spreading the word through emails to student life, housing, deans and anyone else they could think of, asking them to forward the information along to students.
The page had 75 “Likes” within the hour of its creation. By the end of the first week, more than 623 students had joined the network.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Wednesday, April 27 sent violently swirling gray clouds of death and destruction throughout central and northern Alabama.
|UAB nursing student Alyssa Jordan Ward volunteered at Scott Elementary School in Pratt City this past week sorting donated items for victims of the April 27 tornado. She is a member of the UAB Cares volunteer group that partnered with Hands on Birmingham.
More than 100 tornadoes touched down in the state that day. More than 236 Alabamians were killed. More than 1,000 were injured, and thousands of residents lost everything. Although UAB’s Southside campus was spared, the deadly outbreak touched lives across the UAB community.
A campus in an urban setting, UAB draws many of its faculty, staff and students from hard-hit areas such as Pratt City, Pleasant Grove, Fultondale, Concord, Cordova, Cullman and Tuscaloosa. In the hours and days since the storm, the university community has demonstrated that its faculty, staff, students, neighbors and friends are not defined by the storm damage, but their response to it
The help began immediately with UAB medical personnel at work in the field. Emergency medicine physician Sarah Nafziger, M.D., headed for the shattered Pratt City neighborhood as soon as the tornadoes passed. Joining first responders from around the region, she worked all night to triage patients. Nafziger, who trains UAB medical students in emergency medicine and is the medical director for several EMS units in Birmingham, was amazed at the “widespread destruction” she saw. She says it reminded her of her experiences in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
Victims poured into the emergency department at UAB Hospital for much of that Wednesday evening. In all, 134 patients were treated, including 40 with major traumas and 23 who were admitted to the intensive-care unit. Staff added 14 beds to manage the influx by creating an auxiliary ICU.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
The sight of the aftermath of the deadly tornadoes that ripped through the Southeast April 27, 2011, is shocking for most. But some may not be able to see it well at all because their eyeglasses or contact lenses were lost or damaged. Now, a bus rolling into hard-hit towns will help restore that vision.
This relief is sent by the Alabama Vision Alliance, comprising the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry and Callahan Eye Foundation Hospital at UAB, Sight Savers America, Lions Clubs of Alabama and Vision Service Plan.
VSP, the nation’s largest vision insurance company, has provided a bus — a traveling clinic — that is enabling alumni and faculty of the UAB School of Optometry to provide free eye exams and make replacement lenses on-site.
The bus will be in the Pratt City area until May 12, and then it will travel to Pleasant Grove until May 14. The Lions Clubs are working to identify and secure additional sites and more mobile facilities to provide them. For more information on the mobile eye-care unit, call Sight Savers at 205-991-4878.
Monday, May 9, 2011
When Birmingham-based M-POWER Ministries put out the call for volunteers from the health care sector to staff one of the faith-based organization’s health clinics in the tornado-ravaged Pratt City neighborhood, UAB School of Nursing faculty answered.
Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Partnerships Cynthia Selleck, D.S.N., and Assistant Professor Summer Langston, D.N.P., helped organize many of the school’s certified registered nurse practitioners to staff the clinic at the Pratt City Disaster Relief Center.
“We’re nurses, by virtue this is what we do -- we help people – but the inspiration for this project actually came from our students,” Langston says. “Our student organization has a disaster relief chair and after the tornadoes they wanted to know what they could do to help those affected, and immediately began collecting goods for those in need. They took the original initiative and it just snowballed from there.”
Monday, May 9, 2011
UAB student Noora Siddiqui, 19, was in her Blazer Hall dorm room the afternoon of Wednesday, April 27, 2011. The freshman, majoring in biochemistry with a minor in anthropology and Arabic, was studying for finals. Her mother and three younger sisters were at home in Harvest, north of Huntsville, and her father was working in Tuscaloosa. Since weather had struck earlier that day, the family didn't have power at home, and Noora had been in contact with them relaying information about severe weather possibilities.
Around 5:15 p.m. she says, she heard reports that a tornado had touched down five miles from her house. She tried unsuccessfully to reach her mother again, not realizing that things at home had changed. Within a few minutes she learned that a tornado had struck her home, largely destroying it and much of her neighborhood. Her mother and sisters sought refuge at a local fire station.
Monday, May 9, 2011
When a terminally ill person passes away, it’s earth-shattering, says Malcolm Marler, D.Min., director of pastoral care, but often the loved one left behind had some time to prepare. In the case of the April 27 tornado, however, healthy, unsuspecting people were sucked into the sky and flung across fields or ripped from their loved one’s arms. Those who remain are filled with sorrow and often guilt, Marler says.
He has to help people answer the question: “Why was I saved and not my loved one?” There’s no real logical answer, he says. “Much of life is a mystery, and not all can be explained,” he tells them. “Living with mystery is what makes us human.”
“Part of it is true guilt,” says Vivian Friedman, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry, “especially in the case of spouses. They wish they would have died because living without their partner is difficult.”
Then, sometimes the guilt comes if there is any contributing factor, she says: “They say, ‘If only I told them to go into the basement.’ Or, ‘If only I didn’t ask them to go to the store.’”
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
We joke in the news business about the curious, bizarre or scary things we see on stories: babies being born, domestic foibles, natural disasters. Each of us in media relations at UAB has those stories; we're all "former" reporters -- nobody ever fully recovers from that first hit of adrenaline in a big breaking news story.
But the tornadoes that ripped apart parts of Alabama Wednesday had us all muttering a cliche-laced lexicon of disbelief. Oh my god. I've never seen anything like this. Oh my god.
On Friday, chief videographer Jeff Myers and I went with one of our expert faculty, Josh Klapow, to one of the hardest hit areas, Pleasant Grove, Ala., as The Weather Channel interviewed Josh about "psychological first aid" -- basically, how to cope with the world when the world as you know it no longer exists.
Jeff shot the b-roll above. He's seen his share of chaos and hostile situations. He's chased tornadoes, covered Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill and multiple Iron Bowls. After so much storm coverage he says scenes of destruction don't bother him much. What he means is that it doesn't interrupt his job performance. He's steady, but as concerned and worried as the rest of us.
Monday, May 2, 2011
Nearly 100 people gathered today to hear their options for aid when UAB hosted a disaster assistance meeting at the Alys Stephens Center organized by Alabama Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell.
Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Homeland Security, The American Red Cross and the Alabama Governor’s Office spoke. Their message: how people suffering can get help from federal programs, and how others can volunteer to help as well.
“This was a disaster of historic proportions, so we know we must follow the ferocity of those storms with swift assistance and unrelenting resolve to restore hope and rebuild communities,” Garrison said as she introduced Sewell.
Friday, April 29, 2011
It was about noon on Thursday, April 28, 2011, when Sarah Nafziger realized that she and her EMS colleagues were no longer likely to find people injured from the massive tornadoes that had ravaged Alabama the night before. The only people left to be found were the dead.
Nafziger is an emergency physician at UAB, and serves as medical director for several EMS units in the Birmingham area. On Wednesday evening, April 27, she watched the big twister move through Tuscaloosa and Pleasant Grove and when it passed, she hopped a ride on a Trussville fire truck to Pratt City. With first responders from around the area, she worked through the night to triage patients injured by the storm. She helped to coordinate the resources at hand: send paramedics here, they need more ambulances there.
By Thursday morning she was in Pleasant Grove.
Friday, April 29, 2011
UAB students are literally taking the clothes from their closets to help victims of Alabama's devastating April 27 storms. On Thursday, volunteers from eight UAB sorority and fraternity chapters in the National Pan-Hellenic Council collected items at Hill University Center. Students brought bottled water, new shoes, clean clothing, toiletries, food, comforters, household and medical supplies and more, to be delivered to Alabamians in dire need. Brittany Williams, a senior, and graduate student Oladunni Oluwoyi, both members of Sigma Gamma Rho, manned the drop-off station, sorting items and packing boxes for delivery.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
UAB Hospital is holding an emergency blood drive Friday, April 29, through Sunday, May 1, to help tornado victims. Collections will be accepted from noon-5 p.m. in the second-floor atrium of UAB Hospital's North Pavilion at the corner of 18th Street South and Sixth Avenue. Donors need to have a photo ID. Sascha Glassford with American Red Cross donor recruiting explains in this video.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
|Ambulances arrive at UAB in this footage from Wednesday evening.
People in Alabama are experiencing a real tragedy in the aftermath of yesterday’s deadly storms. It’s important to realize just how severely the many losses are being felt, and while emergency responders are helping those with physical injuries, it’s important to care for those with psychological wounds as well, says Joshua C. Klapow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and associate professor in the UAB School of Public Health.
“We should not underestimate how traumatic this is,” Klapow says. “People are dazed, they are confused, and although that is very normal, it can also be dangerous. When we witness or experience these kinds of things, we have a hard time concentrating and processing information. There are a lot of safety instructions right now that people have to comply with, and that can be hard when you can’t get your head straight because your world’s been turned upside down.”
There are very basic things that need to be attended to psychologically, not just physically, he says.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
UAB Hospital tends to more than 100 patients injured from April 27 tornado
It was “busy, controlled chaos” in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital emergency room Wednesday night in the aftermath of the deadly tornado outbreak that pounded Central Alabama, said Loring Rue, M.D., chief of trauma surgery.
A total of 134 patients came through the ER; 40 were major trauma injuries and 23 were admitted to the intensive-care unit. An auxiliary ICU unit was created with 14 additional beds. Ten surgical procedures were performed.
“The injuries were remarkable,” Rue said, noting that people, who were at first in the comfort of their homes, were brought in with injuries consistent with high-speed motor vehicle accidents.
Patients ages 15-78 suffered open fractures as well as chest, head and orthopedic injuries. Among them was a pregnant woman. The wounded came from Anniston, Tuscaloosa, Cullman and metro-area Birmingham. So far, there have been no fatalities among them.
Rue expects the number of patients to increase throughout the day as rescue efforts continue. All elective surgeries previously scheduled have been postponed.
“It has been a team effort,” Rue said of the staff tending the trauma unit. “Doctors, nurses all working together.” He also credits the regional field paramedics for safely transporting patients to the hospital.
Rue was at UAB during the historic tornado outbreak April 8, 1998, that claimed 34 lives. He said last night’s storm was worse. “It was a bigger disaster.”
Timing is critical in getting medical care to the injured, Rue said, but many of the patients were trapped in their homes and couldn’t reach the hospital until four to six hours later. Around midnight, the weather cleared enough to transport patients by helicopter.