We are halfway through this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. And if any huge storms hit, some of our team members are standing by and ready to help when the call comes in.
Lisa Clapp is a nurse navigator at the Bon Secours St. Francis Cancer Center and Jill Heatherington serves with us as an advanced practice clinician. When they’re not working on the frontlines here in Greenville County, they’re helping elsewhere as part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team.
“With any disaster, you can’t predict what you’re going to see,” Jill explains, who joined the program in 2003.
The disaster medical assistance team is made up of various health care providers – ranging from nurses and doctors to pharmacists and paramedics – who can be deployed during disasters and emergencies when the need for medical care can quickly overwhelm the system.
“This work is most importantly lifesaving, but also deeply rewarding,” Lisa shares. She joined the group in 2008.
Both Jill and Lisa were deployed for about three weeks to help people in Puerto Rico in 2017 following Hurricane Maria. They also went to Alabama in early 2020 for COVID-19 training so they could assist as needed throughout the pandemic.
Jill says her most memorable was during her 2010 deployment to Haiti following a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. She describes making a trip up a mountain with her team of 35-plus medical professionals to get to a medical site. That’s when they encountered a man struggling to carry a severely injured little girl and pleading for help. Jill and her team were able to quickly provide the medical care needed to save the child’s life.
“Moments like that make you step back and look at life,” Jill says. “Being a part of this team is something different – you really get to help people at their most desperate moments. There is such value in bringing something good, bringing hope, in the face of bad situations.”
Anyone with a medical background can join this team, and both Jill as well as Lisa encourage those with the necessary skills to do so.
Learn more about the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team.