Two local home health nurses braved severe winter weather conditions so they could see their patients.
Courtney Coffey and Jennifer Russell, who both work for North Mississippi Medical Center Home Health, rode about 60 miles in a Polaris side-by-side vehicle on Feb. 17.
“That’s the only way we could get to these patients,” said Russell, who described the roads as “really bad.”
During their five-hour journey, which took them down icy backroads in below-freezing temperatures, they saw five elderly patients.
“It made me feel good to be able to still help them,” Russell said.
They drove to Pinedale, Hurricane and Thaxton and did not see many other vehicles along the way. The road conditions were “terrible,” said Coffey, adding, “All the little county roads (were) really, really bad.”
A bridge was closed, which forced them to take a longer route. Coffey, who lives in the West Union area, drove the whole way. It was her uncle’s side-by-side and it was heated and fully enclosed, allowing them to stay warm.
“We didn’t get cold at all,” said Russell.
Coffey said the side-by-side handled well in the snow. “I grew up riding four-wheelers and stuff like that my whole life,” Coffey, 32, said.
They started their journey around 9 a.m. and got home at about 2 p.m. just as the snow from the second winter storm was starting to fall. They traveled about 20 to 25 mph.
Russell, who lives in the Darden community, said the roads were a sheet of ice. They said they would not have been able to travel the roads in their compact home health vehicles. Some of the roads had no traffic on them at all.
“We made it OK,” said Russell, 33. “We didn’t really have any issues getting there on the side-by-side.”
They went to one elderly patient’s house and he only had a small amount of firewood left inside his home. Russell and Coffey went outside and brought him some more firewood and told the man to please stay inside.
The man was prone to falls, and they did not want him to risk falling outside while getting more firewood. In fact, the man said he had fallen earlier and hurt his knee and ankle.
One patient they saw needed lab work done, and they also saw a cancer patient in addition to others.
“It felt really good to be able to go and still help them out and still check on them just to make sure everything was going OK,” Russell said.
All the patients were “thrilled to see us,” said Coffey. “We knew that some of these (patients) needed to be seen.”
Some of the patients were laughing because Russell and Coffey were on the side-by-side. They took their journey the day the second winter storm hit the area.
“We got out and tried to beat it coming in,” said Coffey, adding that the snow from the second storm started falling around the time they made it back home.
Coffey said she and Russell were not in fear during the journey. She said they had a few “little scares” when the vehicle turned somewhat sideways.
“We made it very well,” she said. “We just went slow and steady.”
If they met any cars in the road, Coffey would pull over and let them pass. Coffey packed a lunchbox with drinks and snacks, and they had their home health supplies and computers.
Coffey and Russell are both graduates of West Union Attendance Center. Coffey has been a home health nurse for about a year and prior to that worked in the ER of North Mississippi Medical Center. Russell has been a home health nurse for five years.
Their nurse manager, Laurie Ledbetter, said, "I am extremely proud of their adventurous spirit and their dedication to our home care patients. We have had numerous staff over our 17-county area having to use 4-wheel drive vehicles to reach patients this week. This adventure on the Polaris Ranger has probably been the most creative. They surprised the patients with their mode of travel. Home care workers are some of the most resilient workers never letting difficult circumstances prevent them from providing excellent care. I am extremely proud of all of our staff."