Defining Moments in Times of Evacuation

By Milena Milenkovic, OT/DOR, Park View Post Acute, Santa Rosa, CA
I was at home, in my pajamas, when I got the text message from our DON on Sunday 9/27 at 11pm, “We need all hands on deck to prepare packets for the potential evacuation.” I slowly jumped out of my bed and headed straight for the espresso machine while my partner read Twitter and Nixel alerts aloud regarding the location of the fires, direction of the winds, and latest evacuations orders.

When I arrived to Park View around 12:30am, the power was off, the building was running on a generator, several members of our leadership team were already busily doing various prep work while the rest of the building was quiet, patients and residents sleeping, nurses and CNAs attending to their tasks. While making copies of patient’s charts in our long-term section, I heard various residents snore, some waking up from sleep, asking for help, and hearing CNAs quickly attending to the resident, comforting them from a bad dream, helping them fall back asleep.

Soon enough, it was nearly 4am and I found myself taking a quick nap in the middle of the therapy gym, listening to the NOC shift sounds of med carts, occasional call lights, and staff’s footsteps. I anxiously napped, waiting for 5am so that I can send a text to my therapists. I worried about what to say to them, worried about those that had to evacuate, worried that many may not show up, that this is just too much, and that we may not have enough support in the morning if we had to evacuate. As 7am rolled-around, the shift-change happened, all my therapists showed up (some much earlier than usual), more staff rolled-in, and our building came to life. As our sister facility, Summerfield, started evacuating, it was our turn to continue “cold-calling” all SNFs within the Bay Area to ask them to accept our patients in the case of evacuation. Ash was falling from the sky as we secured beds for all of our patients. We were ready.

By 2:30pm on Monday 9/28 (32+ hours of being awake), after a near fall from exhaustion and pizza for breakfast, I knew it was time to go home and sleep. The sight of so many alert, awake, kind, calm, and composed Park View staff showing up in the morning brought the comfort, sense of security, and sense of overwhelming connection that we would OK, no matter what. Everyone became a leader by supporting one another, one hour at a time.

During these times, it has been so difficult for many of us who are unable to see our families and close friends. Some of our families and friends live in places that we cannot travel to, some are part of the vulnerable population, and some are no longer with us on this Earth. While napping in the middle of the gym, listening for evacuation alerts, hearing the flow of the NOC shift, I felt a sense of gratitude and acceptance that this, Park View and its staff and what we do as a team, is my family and this is where I am meant to be. That moment of exhaustion combined with team unity, trust in others, and the sight of our staff leading with patience and love is what I always look back on when I need a reason to continue fighting through the challenges that continue coming our way. Together, one day at time.