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Boca Grande Health Clinic helps after the storm

October 13, 2022
By Sheila Evans

Dana Pellant and Natalie Cole, nurses at the Boca Grande Health Clinic, were a rescue team driving through storm-ravaged Boca Grande in the first days after Hurricane Ian hit the Island. Natalie’s daughter, Campbell, became part of the team, as well.  

“We knew who the most vulnerable people on the Island were, and had an idea who would not leave, so before the storm we put together a list and started calling them to see what they planned to do, and where they would be when the storm passed,” explained Nurse Pellant. 

The day after Ian hit they got in Nurse Cole’s car and started searching door-to-door around the Island to see who had stayed, and what condition their patients were in. There was no phone service at that point so phone calls were useless. They had a golf cart available, but were concerned there would not be enough electric power to make their rounds and still get back to the Clinic. So Natalie offered her car.

They had communication equipment connecting them to the sheriff’s office and fire department so if they found someone in serious trouble they could report it quickly and obtain help. A private ambulance had been stationed on the Island in the case of an emergency.  

While these nurses were making wellness calls throughout the Island, Jonna Foos, the Clinic’s Operations Coordinator, had evacuated to Georgia with her family. That did not mean she was not connected to the Clinic the whole time. The phones were forwarded to her number and she was able to field calls to all the right places, taking care of medicine refill requests, answering questions and taking the pressure off those working in the field and at the Clinic site.

Father Carosella talking about the storm.

Making calls to patients and preparing for the storm was everyone’s job. This included Kelsey Chavarria, operations lead; Laquanda Dixon and Karen Trent, Medical Assistants; Cara Onofrio, patient representative; and Nurse Lindsay Dalton. Nurse Jenny Mayday, joined the Clinic staff the day before the storm arrived. She pitched in immediately and has been calling in and helping in any way she can. Kelsey was not able to come to the office in the storm’s aftermath, but kept the spirit of service in the forefront. She and her boyfriend left their own home and went out helping neighbors, rescuing an elderly neighbor from rising waters.

Mark Driscoll, Chief Executive Officer of the Clinic, said it was very much like the old fashioned community doctoring that was once common. The Clinic served as a hub of activity for the town, providing cold water, a connection to other agencies, a large generator for recharging golf carts and other needs. Service was rendered from the first day after the storm, with both doctors on call, and even living at the Clinic for several days when their own houses were damaged.