Faculty in the Field

post1.pngBy 5 a.m., 24-hours after Hurricane Irma decimated Florida, Darci Grunett was headed into the heart of the destruction. And for her, that's normal.

"In our field, we run toward things that others are running from," Grunett says of her profession. She's a veteran Paramedic with 27 years of service and BSC's Emergency Medical Services/Paramedic Program Director.

Grunett and 22 others who are part of the North Dakota EPR (Emergency, Preparedness and Response) Medical Volunteer Reserve team landed in Tallahassee Tuesday, and headed south to Miami. Grunett expects to be assigned to a medical shelter - likely based out of Florida International University in Miami.

Medical shelters are for those with chronic serious illnesses who need medication or serious care - such as cancer patients, or those on ventilators or people with feeding tubes. The shelters maintain power through generators and medical staff provide the care needed until the situation stabilizes.

The group Grunett is traveling with for ND EPR includes four graduates of the BSC Paramedic Program. "I instructed them as students and now we are colleagues working together for the greater good. I love that."

Grunett will continue to teach during her time in Florida. Her classes normally have a strong online component, and during her deployment they'll move fully online. "The students are fairly independent and this is a great opportunity to see how they work when fully online."

During her career Grunett has been deployed a number of times -- to Minot after the flood of 2011, to Cuba as part of a flight-based NICU team from New Mexico, and most recently to the Dakota Access Pipeline. She also has served on medical teams for seven AIDS rides and five breast cancer walks, among numerous other events around the country. This time around, she obtained permission from campus leaders within a few hours of getting the call to serve.

"I am grateful that BSC would allow me to do this. It's all about people in need, and I love the fact that BSC is so supportive."

Day 1:

(written by Darci Grunett)
post2_2.pngSix of our team of 23 met at the Bismarck airport. I am super lucky to fly with this group of four former BSC Paramedic program graduates and an awesome nurse I used to work with in Cooperstown.

State EPR (Emergency Preparedness and Response) met us at the airport with 23 backpacks to check. After several folks paid to check backpacks, Delta stepped up and checked the rest at no cost. Our airport hops were Minneapolis, Minn., and Atlanta, Ga. with our final destination Tallahassee, Fla. for staging. We had so many bags to claim! We had to wait at the airport for the rest of the team to arrive, so our group took a little trip to the Walmart. Our cab post2.pngdriver, Ahmet, was awesome. He had to pull over because he was laughing so hard at our sense of humor. I have attached a picture of our group with our cab driver (in sunglasses).

After a dinner break, we went to the staging area. We are probably having a bit more fun than we should. But, we are all so excited to head out and start helping! The plan is to spend the night and head south in the morning.

Day 2:

(written by Darci Grunett)post3.png
We woke up to news reports of five nursing home residents that died and 120 sickened in a South Florida nursing home due to extreme heat. We are also saddened by the news that many people in Florida have died due to carbon monoxide poisoning from using generators in their home. Do not do this!

We are currently on a bus headed south. We have been told that we will be at Florida International University in Miami.

Day 3:

(written by Darci Grunett)
After a dayDay3_3.pngs waiting while the State of Florida DOH, military and FEMA try to sort out needs and safety concerns, Team "North Dakota Nice" will split up and be deployed to the Florida Keys - Islamorada, Marathon andDay3_4.png Cudjoe Key, we believe. We have been warned that there is a "rank smell of death" and that we will be in the heart of the disaster, literally hell on Earth.

No body removal has started. The Keys survivors in these areas have no food, water, electricity, or shelter. The Navy has sent large ships off the Keys for support. We are standing up hospital pods to finally start taking care of the injured and dehydrated and may be called upon to help with body removal. We were given motor homes to live in for the next few weeks so each group will have a safe place to shelter and sleep during non-work times. As we go into such devastation, keep us in your thoughts and say a little prayer for us, I think we will need it.Day3.png
We did have two rescues today. A very skeletal cat and the cutest little lizard. I named the lizard Irma and released it into the wild. The crazy cat ladies (Nurse LaNette and I) have cat food so we fed the poor kitty.


Day 4:

(written by Darci Grunett)post4.png
We made it to our new home for the next couple of weeks. We set up our medical station but are still awaiting a large drop of additional medical supplies. We are so glad we brought a few personal items with us that can be used in the interim.

The Keys are just devastated. Luckily DMort is on ground and the deceased recovery has begun. We have seen a few patients, but luckily nothing major since our medical supplies are not all here yet.

The State of Florida has split our team into 4 Keys and given us motor homes for sleeping and downtime - Team Key West, Team Sugarloaf, Team Marathon and Team Tavernier. Out of these Keys, Marathon received the worst. (Cudjoe Key housing is 95% destroyed, but much less populated).

I was assigned to Team Marathon.
Our team consists of:
Team Lead: Darci Grunett, Paramedic
Driver 1: Craig Comes, Paramedic
Driver 2/Mechanic: Aden Clark, Paramedic
Communications: Luke Zabka, Paramedic
RN: LaNette Harr-Isakson
Tech: Ciara Archambeau, Paramedic

post4_1.pngWe kept most of the BSC group together, however, John McDaniel was moved to Team Key West because they needed another Paramedic. We already miss his comedic sense of humor. I think we have all been a little dehydrated from laughing so hard we had tears rolling whenever John was around.

We have a dream team! Everyone took a task of leadership/ownership in our team and set to work. We have set our schedules and created an environment of support and respect. We are busy building relationships with the Army, DEA, National Guard, local Law Enforcement, SWAT, Florida DOH, and Red Cross that are at our location. We feel very safe! We continue to be North Dakota Nicpost4_2.pnge and everyone already wants to keep us! They believe our shelter and hospital will be running for a minimum of a couple of months.

The next few days should be very busy as Keys roads are now set to open tomorrow to allow people to return and start the process of cleanup.