During the blizzard of 2011, Boone Hospital Center’s pedestrian bridge over Broadway became a popular spot for watching the snow come down.
From the bridge, passersby watched as the ground became white in mid-morning. By noon, there were more than seven inches on the ground. Before long it was a foot deep — and that was just the beginning.
By rush hour, the normally busy street under the bridge was essentially silent except for an occasional snowplow.
And when the precipitation finally stopped sometime before midnight, 20 inches of snow covered the ground.
Through the evening, Columbia had ground to a halt. But inside the hospital, there was no slowing down.
As the snow fell, Boone Hospital’s ambulance crews responded to emergency calls and brought patients in for care. Dozens of people were treated in the hospital’s emergency department for weather related injuries — mostly slips, falls and fractures.
Eleven new Boone Babies were born during the storm. Doctors performed an emergency operation during the night.
“Our staff’s effort was simply amazing. Outside the hospital, the city was almost at a standstill. The schools and universities had closed along with many of the stores,” said Dan Rothery, Boone Hospital president. “But inside, we were providing outstanding care just like we do every other day of the year. I can’t thank our staff enough for their sacrifices as we served our patients.”
Among those who made regular trips to watch the snow from the pedestrian bridge was Christa Kuntz, the unit secretary on Boone Hospital’s 2100 floor.
Kuntz was one of about 340 Boone Hospital staff members who stayed overnight at the hospital on Feb. 1. She and some of her coworkers slept inside the hospital’s outpatient medical oncology unit.
“Everyone knew they were going to have to spend the night so we just made the best of it and had a good time,” she said. “We are all pretty close here so we just helped each other out.”
While Kuntz and the rest of the staff were serving patients, some Boone Hospital leaders operated a command center. The command center ensured there were plenty of supplies available and that staff were working where they were needed. They also made sleeping arrangements for those staying overnight.
The hospital’s snow pick up team also played an important role. The team transports essential staff members to work during snow emergencies. The team consists of 12 hospital leaders with four-wheel drive vehicles.
Randy Gay, Boone Hospital’s safety manager, helped found the team with Jon Larson, nutrition and food services director, back in 1978.
When snow hits, Gay is out on the streets in his Jeep Cherokee picking up caregivers. He praised his fellow snow team members.
“They’re not getting a nickel for this,” he said. “These are the true angels of the hospital.”
As caregivers and other staff members served together, a positive attitude filled the building despite the difficult circumstances.
“When things like this happen, people almost get giddy because they know they’re all here and they’re all stuck,” said Deanna Powers, manager of Women’s and Children’s Health. “They just make the best of it.”
During their down time, some staff members had fun watching movies together and playing games.
Scrub tech Tami Held tried to organize a snowman-building competition. But when the snow wouldn’t stick together, they settled for making snow angels outside the hospital’s Pain Management Clinic entrance.
Kathy Scott, a nurse on Boone’s 4100 floor, played Farkle — a dice game — with eight coworkers in the cafeteria. Scott said she always keeps the game in her car.
“After working extra and knowing we were going to be stuck for a while, we decided to do something a little fun,” she said.
Hospital patients noticed that their caregivers were putting in an extra effort and showed their appreciation.
David Townsend, whose wife delivered a baby boy the day before the snow came, told a local news reporter that he was impressed by the level of cooperation among the Boone Hospital staff.
He also wrote a note to the newspaper, saying: “I cannot tell you how great the staff at Boone has been. We had our second child on Monday and are here for a few days. Everyone here has a smile on their face and is pitching in. The staff here is really helping each other out. We are lucky to have a hospital with a staff like this in Boone County.”
Powers said the feeling is mutual.
“The patients care about the staff too, especially in a situation like this,” she said. “They’re really very grateful. The care and concern they show for the staff equals what we show for them.”