March 7, 2003

Nurses respond to victims of Rhode Island tragedy

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Three Vanderbilt Burn Unit nurses are in Rhode Island helping care for burn victims from the Feb. 20 fire at a West Warwick nightclub that killed 98 people.

Because of day-in, day-out burn care experience, and their willingness to travel to emergency scenarios, assistant Burn Unit manager Sharron Craven, R.N., Wendy Beese, R.N., and Cathy Cunningham, R.N., were called Feb. 26 by the Medical Disaster Assistance Team, a Health and Human Services response plan. The nurses left the next day for Providence, R.I., where they’ll work 12-hour shifts 10 out of 12 days.

“There are 29 patients here, and 20 of them are on ventilators,” Craven said by phone from the hospital this week. “We haven’t lost anybody yet.”

Craven and Beese also went to New York in October 2001 to help care for burn victims from the World Trade Center attack.

“I commend them for literally dropping their lives here, with hours’ notice, to travel and assist,” unit manager Michelle Terrell said.

The Rhode Island incident followed a Kentucky factory explosion that sent six critically burned patients to Vanderbilt. When the Rhode Island trio left other nurses pitched in to fill the void.

“The people here have been wonderful, but we’re going to be very pleased to get home,” Craven said.