A 30-minute notice was all Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk received before an influx of tornado victims arrived in the hospital’s emergency department.
The same destructive weather system that produced twin tornadoes and devastated property in Pilger also caused massive injuries for some Northeast Nebraskans.
Dr. Doug Dilly, the emergency physician who lead the trauma team at Faith Regional on Monday, said, “We heard from EMS (Emergency Medical Services) being called to the scene, and we can listen to all their EMS calls. We can kind of gauge what patients were going to be coming in and what kind of condition they were in.”
There were 17 patients associated with the storm who were seen by the trauma team, he said, and then a few more who came in later in the evening with minor injuries.
Of the 17 trauma patients, one five-year-old girl died. There was another traffic-related fatality associated with the storm, but Dilly said the person died at the scene and was not brought to the hospital.
Calista Dixon, 5, died after suffering injuries inside a mobile home on Main Street in Pilger, according to Stanton County Sheriff Mike Unger. Her mother remained at Creighton University Medical Center in critical condition.
Cuming County officials said 74-year-old David Herout of Clarkson died when his vehicle left the roadway about 4:50 p.m. about 2.5 miles east of Pilger. Herout was ejected from the vehicle, Unger said.
The majority of the patients who were brought to Faith Regional were treated and released.
Four storm victims remain hospitalized Tuesday morning, Dilly said, including one patient who is still in the hospital’s intensive care unit.
“He lost his home and came to us, and we brought him directly to the ICU. He is on a ventilator at this time,” Dilly said.
The other three patients who were admitted were a 52-year-old man and his 25-year-old son, as well as a 47-year-old man.
As of Tuesday afternoon, three people remain hospitalized with injuries that are not life threatening, a hospital spokeswoman said.
“We saw everything (in relation to injuries) — from foreign bodies, impalement, crush injuries, lacerations, major organ trauma. . . . Victims were brought in by EMS from Pilger, Stanton, Battle Creek, West Point, Norfolk, Madison, Columbus, Wayne and more. Every EMS system within Northeast Nebraska was alerted, and anybody that could have responded did,” Dilly said.
Dilly said he hopes residents of Northeast Nebraska keep the people affected by the tornadoes in mind.
“They can keep their ears open as needs arise. The families will need food, water, clothing, shelter. I think right now the plan is not to have any volunteers in (Pilger) until Wednesday. But they are going to need help,” Dilly said.
Kelly Driscoll, a Faith Regional administrator, said there were four hospital staff members who lost their homes during Monday’s storms.
“We do have an employee assistance program that provides a benefit to our employees and their families here. It includes physicians and counselors to offer assistance to our employees that need support,” Driscoll said.
Dilly said he is grateful to everybody who worked hard to provide care to the storm victims.
“The EMS system, nurses, everybody that was involved yesterday, I would just like to thank them. Everything went very smoothly. We’ve drilled for it, and it’s nice to see it work the way it’s supposed to,” he said.
Elsewhere in Northeast Nebraska, damage to property and injuries to people also were reported in the Pender area.
Melissa Kelly, the hospital’s chief executive officer, said the Pender Community Hospital treated three people from Pender for minor injuries.
Like other hospitals in the area, Pender Community Hospital went into emergency mode when the storm hit Pilger and let responders know they could take up to 12 patients, Kelly said.
In the end, “our patients didn’t come from Pilger . . . but from west of Pender,” she said.
People from the Pilger area were treated at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in West Point, said Ron Briggs, hospital chief executive officer.
Briggs said he received notice around 4 p.m. that they had to move their patients to a secure area because of the tornado warning.
While that was going on, hospital staff prepared to receive patients from Pilger, he added. The emergency caused them to call in one doctor, a couple of nurses and x-ray personnel.
In the end, five patients were transported by ambulance to the hospital, he said. All had minor injuries and were released.
“We geared up pretty well, but didn’t have many casualties to serve,” he said. “All in all, the team was well prepared.”
The event was not without a hint of irony, though. The hospital and city were scheduled to have an emergency preparedness drill in the next few days, Briggs said.
It may not be needed now, he added.
Three people injured in the Pilger storm were treated and released at Providence Medical Center in Wayne, said Sandy Bartling, public information officer.
“We sent two ambulances out — one to Wakefield and one to Pilger,” she said. “The ambulance sent to Wakefield area transported two patients to the Pender Hospital while the one sent to Pilger transported two patients to Providence. A third patient from the Pilger area was brought to the hospital by Dodge County Rescue.”