Even before Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas’s Coastal Bend on August 25 last year, CHRISTUS Spohn, South Texas’s largest hospital system, sprang into action, doing what it does best: helping people heal. “[Our] mission is to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ,” said CHRISTUS Spohn Market President Justin Doss. “That philosophy guides every decision we make and every action we take. When people are in need of help, or are hurting, it is our duty to care for them. That could be everything from medical care to spiritual care, or in this case physically helping them rebuild their lives.”
Following the hurricane, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm and is estimated to have caused $150 to $180 billion in damages, several dozen CHRISTUS Spohn associates deployed to Aransas Pass, Refugio, and Rockport, cities that were hit especially hard. “I was fortunate to participate in the cleanup efforts in Aransas Pass and see firsthand how our associates improved the lives of residents there and provided hope and healing to the community,” Doss said.
Their mission included working alongside homeowners to repair fences, move debris, offer spiritual support, and provide vaccinations against tetanus and flu. “[Our] care van provided 100 free flu and tetanus shots to local volunteers and residents to make sure they were safe and healthy as they assisted others and rebuilt their communities,” Doss explained. “We also distributed another 100 shots to our physicians and clinicians so they could vaccinate area residents as well.”
Vaccinations were particularly important because volunteers and homeowners were exposed to wire mesh from destroyed homes and rusted nails from lumber, Doss said. “As we were going through the cleanup efforts, even some of our own crew with proper protection experienced minor puncture wounds from nails,” he said.
According to the website of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), tetanus-containing vaccines are recommended following natural disasters because of the prevalence of injuries; if injuries occur, they are likely to be contaminated. Individuals displaced from a natural disaster should receive influenza, varicella, and MMR vaccines, according to the CDC.
“If we can go out in the community and deliver free flu shots, that’s one less thing that the community has to worry about, so they can stay healthy during the cleanup efforts,” Doss explained.
Riding Out the Storm
As the only provider that stayed open during Hurricane Harvey, CHRISTUS Spohn’s reach spanned the entire community. “We did that because we know that our EMS providers were out there risking their lives to get our community out of harm’s way, and we felt it was only appropriate to continue serving our EMS community, which was providing care to all of the surrounding areas,” Doss said.
During the hurricane, the healthcare system rode out the worst of the storm at the hospital while caring for more than 200 patients. “Nearly 1,000 of our associates, nurses, and physicians provided care during the hurricane across our six hospitals,” commented Doss. “Then, immediately following the storm, we received dozens of patients from surrounding communities and provided care at our trauma center for those most injured.”
CHRISTUS Spohn was also the only hospital that stayed open during the hurricane and delivered babies. “We delivered several during the height of the storm . . . To know that our associates’ hard work and sacrifice helped bring life into this world is all the reward we need.”
Amid the Gulf Coast’s rebuilding efforts, system associates have donated funds to several local charities, including one of its own that helps fellow associates who were left without food, clothes, or home supplies. “It’s amazing to see the spirit of giving from our associates,” he marveled. “We are blessed to have a team with such a big heart that cares for their community.”
Having served South Texas for more than a century, CHRISTUS Spohn has seen its fair share of natural disasters and emergency situations. “Our very first hospital on North Beach was wiped out by the 1909 hurricane, so we definitely know what it’s like to rebuild after a tragedy,” he recalled. “We always have associates and volunteers on standby ready to serve the community when needed. We are proud to be the regional healthcare leader, and with that comes a great responsibility to care for others any way we can.”
Spohn Hospital was the brainchild of Dr. Arthur Spohn, who envisioned a place where he could care for Corpus Christi’s residents, according to CHRISTUS Spohn’s website. He opened the first Spohn hospital in 1905, and the Sisters of the Incarnate Word cared for its first patient. Later, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio moved to Corpus Christi to open Spohn Sanitarium, where in 1919, they cared for residents following a hurricane that year, as well as individuals who suffered from yellow fever. Sister Thies drowned trying to save a paralyzed man from the storm, giving her life in an attempt to help others.
Today, CHRISTUS Spohn hospitals, cancer centers, and health clinics are located in Arkansas, Louisiana, Utah, Ireland, and Texas. The Texas health facilities are operated by more than 4,000 associates who share the sisters’ vision. Six hospitals and six health centers are located in the Coastal Bend area alone, and serve 60 percent of the community.
“This is where we live; this is the place we call home, so we’re very committed to making sure our community is cared for now and for future generations,” Doss said. “We are proud to call South Texas home and provide high-quality, compassionate care for the community.”