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Helping in Houston: ICU nurse from Evergreen is glad she could treat Houston patients after hurricane

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

They call her “Colorado.”

That’s the nickname that Deb Fuller, Evergreen resident and intensive care unit nurse, has at a hospital in Houston, where she’s been working since Sept. 1. Fuller is one of hundreds of medical professionals who’ve gone to help in the areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

Fuller said since much of the staff is from other states, they’ve taken to calling each other by where they’re from.

“We have all kind of bonded,” she said of her new-found co-workers and friends. “We’re all here for the same reason, and we’ll be friends for life.”

Fuller, who has been a nurse for 28 years, works for HealthTrust, an agency that provides nurses to several hospitals in the Denver area. She usually works at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree.

Fuller heeded the call from the agency looking for nurses to travel to Texas.

“It’s been pretty amazing,” she said. “I’m glad I did it. We’re able to help these people, and they’re so grateful.”

Fuller is one of three Denver-area nurses at Kingwood Medical Center just north of Houston, but she’s sure there are other Coloradans volunteering in the many other hospitals in the area.

Not only has she been able to help with the onslaught of patients coming into the hospital, but she’s been able to give time off to the Houston nurses, who lost their homes and needed to focus on rebuilding their personal lives.

Plus she rode in a Black Hawk helicopter with the military to retrieve a patient, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that she called awesome.

As she and other nurses were transported to Houston, Fuller witnessed firsthand some of the devastation of the hurricane that first made landfall in Texas on Aug. 26. She saw water reaching the rooftops of some homes before it receded.

The first few nights in Texas, the nurses slept in the hospital on cots. Within a week, the water had receded enough so they could stay in a nearby hotel.

Patients came from other hospitals damaged in the flood, and the hospital took care of many who were rescued from their homes. She’s seen dehydration, patients who ran out of medication waiting for rescue, and injuries.

“It was total mayhem in the beginning,” she said. “We were trying to rescue them and trying to get them medical care. We have been full to capacity. They were even putting patients in the (emergency rooms).”

Now things are more normal, but the hospital is still full, and the staff is still short.

Fuller, who will be back in Evergreen on Sunday, decided to go because it was an opportunity to help others that most people don’t get.

“It’s being able to take care and give back to the people who really need it,” she said. “Even though it’s not my community, it’s still my country. It’s an adventure, that’s for sure.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041.