Courtesy of the NWI Times
HIGHLAND | Dana Smiddy didn't need to hear the call for medical personnel volunteers before she dashed to an emergency triage center May 22 that was the only hospital left standing in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo.
The nurse in the cardiac rehab unit at Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus had celebrated her nephew's graduation from Missouri Southern State University just the day before.
Smiddy had survived the twister with her family in the bowels of a Joplin hotel, waiting for the deadly tornado raging in the city around her to move on.
The happy family celebration weekend quickly had turned into a nightmare as she saw firsthand the devastation of the tornado that killed more than 140 people. It missed her hotel by four blocks.
"I need to go help. I need to help someone," Smiddy, who has been a nurse for the past 22 years, remembers thinking. Her instincts were to help even before she heard the newscast playing on her sister's laptop asking for medical personnel assistance.
St. John Regional Medical Center had been hit by the tornado along with a nearby nursing home. All of those patients were transferred to Freeman Health System, and that's where Smiddy became known as "the nurse from Indiana."
"I never saw so much blood," Smiddy, of Highland, said.
She saw doors being used as stretchers and patients filling the hallways. She helped move patients and primed IVs. She heard people screaming, desperately searching for their loved ones. The search was made easier when some people wrote their names and an emergency contact on their bodies with a Sharpie. She held hands.
"There were some patients that were really scared -- the nursing home patients. Whenever I got a chance to hold a hand, I would. I only did what any other nurse would do. It's in my blood," she said.
Anna Daniels, of Wheatfield, Smiddy's sister and the mother of the college graduate who brought the family to Joplin for the weekend, plans to make a return trip with supplies to Joplin later this month. She has two sons who live in the area, and went to college there herself.
"You can't just live through that and not help somebody," Daniels said. "I thought, 'I've got to go back ... I can't walk away and do nothing.'"
Smiddy, who also helped out in the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, can't forget the images she saw for the four hours she helped out at Freeman Health System.
"I learned how precious life is."