Thornhill ready to help in Virginia

Published 12:36 am Sunday, August 28, 2011

NATCHEZ — Ann Thornhill, has assisted on the ground in disasters that have left memories, and scars, on the national consciousness.

Now the nurse and chief of disaster health services for the American Red Cross is ready with first aid for potential victims of Hurricane Irene in Richmond, Va. The category 1 hurricane made landfall on the East Coast Saturday.

Thornhill is leading a team of nurses in response to the storm. Thornhill arrived in Richmond Thursday, where she jumped right into pre-disaster response logistics.

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“We are working with local areas to make sure they are prepared for sheltering,” Thornhill said Friday. “And then we will be taking care of the clients if and when they should come to the shelters from the healthcare standpoint.”

Thornhill said she was also making sure shelters had health service supplies and workers to cover three shifts if and when clients come.

“We would actually take care of clients and assist with their health care needs,” she said. “We can replace medications and durables that might have been lost. We can assist like home health does, in that manner.”

Thornhill said that includes getting patients in touch with doctors or getting them to area hospitals if necessary.

The Community Hospital retiree said she has been assisting at the site of major disasters since 1998.

Her first experience assisting with the Red Cross was when Hurricane George hit in 1998. She was also mobilized to New York City for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Most recently, Thornhill returned from Joplin, Mo., where a monster tornado ravaged the town and left 153 dead in May. She was also at the sites of tornado touchdowns in Mississippi — notably Smithville.

“It was completely wiped out,” Thornhill said.

Thornhill said it can be difficult to witness trauma and tragedy unfolding on a mass scale, but she can handle it because she has a job to do.

“A lot of it has to do with an individual’s personality and what they have done and worked with in their life,” Thornhill said. “I was an orthopedic nurse, so I’ve been around a lot of trauma prior to this. You go into it with the thought, ‘I’m here to help, and if I allow myself to become affected, I can’t help.’ You’ve got to stay strong to help the people.”

Thornhill said her assignments are for three to four weeks, and then the Red Cross sends her back to Natchez.

On Saturday evening, Thornhill was waiting out the storm in the dark since the power was out.

“We are just waiting for daylight now to see,” Thornhill said. “Hopefully she passes over during night and we can start recovery work in the morning.”

Thornhill said the Richmond area is expecting a tremendous amount of flooding.

“If we can get through the wind tonight, we will be able to handle flooding better,” Thornhill said.