As Hurricane Florence creeps closer to the coastline, South Carolina resident Eric Ault is lying comfortably in a hospital bed in Jacksonville, Fla, 363 miles away from his hometown of Myrtle Beach. Ault was admitted to Grand Strand Medical Center for a GI bleed on Friday night just as weather forecasts were showing Florence headed to the Carolinas.
A few days after being admitted to the hospital South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster ordered mandatory medical evacuations. In compliance with his medical evacuation order and for the safety of patients and staff, Grand Strand Medical Center temporarily closed and evacuated more than 320 patients. Ault was one of them.
“It was really an interesting spectacle to watch an entire hospital get evacuated,” he said. “I could hear staff members pre-planning. It was very close to a military exercise, seeing busses from different counties and jurisdictions showing up, a team of people loading patients up and evacuating these people. It was clearly well organized.”
Ault was taken in an ambulance to the airport and then was flown in a medical transport jet to Jacksonville. Once he landed, he was taken to Memorial Hospital where caregivers were ready and anticipating his arrival.
“Everyone greeted me like an old family member because they knew I was coming,” he said. “The whole spirit, everybody along the way seemed to have a great attitude and worked well together. It was really impressive.”
Ault, a prostate cancer survivor, says he is now undergoing testing at Memorial Hospital to see why he’s having pain and if he’ll need surgery. If so, he’ll remain in Jacksonville and will continue to be cared for by the nurses and caregivers at Memorial Hospital.
Ault’s wife and daughter, who happen to be nurses at Grand Strand Medical Center, remain in South Carolina on standby in the event they are called upon during the storm. Ault’s son and his pets are there as well, riding out the storm together.
“I’ve been through a few hurricanes, I know what they’re like in that area. Clearly I would much prefer to be with my wife, my two kids, my pets and my friends,” he said. “It is a little anxiety-inducing to know there is absolutely nothing that I can do from here.”
While Ault can’t control his circumstances, he says he can stay positive and hope for the best for his loved ones, his home and his community in Myrtle Beach.
In the meantime, he’s focused on getting better and giving thanks to everyone at Grand Strand Medical Center, Memorial Hospital and those across HCA Healthcare who helped to coordinate his care.
“Evacuating an entire hospital in the face of a hurricane is a tremendous task and I can’t imagine how much planning and thought and coordination had to go into it,” he said. “Throughout the entire thing I did not see a single person frustrated or complaining about having to work during the storm. Everyone had such a great attitude toward it and clearly were trying to take care of the patients first.”