Dedication to Duty: Blackouts and a Wildfire Won’t Stop Sutter Nurses
A spine injury at age 19 left Santa Rosa resident Ken Kilgore with paralysis in both his arms and legs. Bedbound and dependent on a special electric mattress that circulates air to prevent bedsores, Kilgore was nervous about the planned power shutoffs, until his bigger fear came true: an evacuation order.
Kilgore was one of approximately 150 patients routinely seen in their homes by the staff of Sutter Care at Home in Sonoma County who had to evacuate in response to the Kincade Fire. Through the uncertainty, fear and displacement, Kilgore says there was one constant: his nurse Paige Medeiros and the whole Sutter Care at Home family. “I must have gotten three calls a day from Sutter,” remembers Kilgore who is now safely back at home.
While the wildfire raged and blackouts rolled, Medeiros worked every day to make sure patients who rely on Sutter Care at Home had an in-person visit, or when that wasn’t possible, repeated phone calls to check on symptoms, give medical advice and guide patients to in-person care options as needed.
“These are people with feeding tubes, IV pumps, wound vacuums or special air mattresses like Ken’s,” Medeiros explained. “These are very frail patients that have high medical needs and are all homebound.” Working down a list, Medeiros drove to each patient’s house or the location where they’d been evacuated to, and checked if they needed supplies or nursing services, seeing to the needs of her regular patients and several patients who were normally cared for by other nurses, who had themselves been evacuated.
“It was a real team effort,” recalls Medeiros. “All of my co-workers and the whole Sutter family pitched in.”
Medeiros praised a nurse who drove from Marin to Mendocino (approximately 131 miles one way) to give a patient an in-home infusion (a special treatment that not all nurses can provide) and another who problem-solved through a four-day power outage, charging patients’ phones from her car battery and driving medical devices to the community resource center to be charged before returning them to her homebound patients.
James Conforti, chief operating officer for Sutter Health, knows that staff work tirelessly to provide quality care to patients. “Sutter’s integrated network allows us to coordinate care and contact patients. From filling prescriptions, rescheduling appointments to keeping vital chemotherapy infusions on track, we make sure our patients have continuity of care. The resilience of our staff and community never ceases to amaze me.”
But perhaps Kilgore said it best: “It’s not just a job to them—they really care about us.”