“When I walk into these homes and I look in the eyes of the people who have been devastated, it’s just such an inspiration and a privilege to help them because they’re desperate. To see the despair all over their face—they don’t know where they’re going to live,” said Mary Lee Gannon, president, St. Margaret Foundation.
Community members in the areas surrounding UPMC St. Margaret experienced devastating flooding on July 2, leaving many with damaged property and the risk of illness from exposure to contaminated water. UPMC St. Margaret and the St. Margaret Foundation saw the need to aid the community and set up two locations for flood victims, cleanup volunteers and public safety and public works personnel to receive tetanus shots free of charge.
On July 11, local EMS, police, fire department and road crew members visited UPMC St. Margaret to get vaccinated and enjoy a lunch in appreciation of their relief efforts. Flood victims and cleanup volunteers were directed to the Roots of Faith community center in Sharpsburg, where vaccinations were given and first-aid kits distributed to those in need. In addition, many UPMC St. Margaret employees volunteered their time, including a physician, a pharmacist, several nurses and a social worker, who were onsite to provide assistance. Nearly 100 people received the tetanus vaccine that day.
“We saw an opportunity to jump in and help out. There are a lot of folks who are in a time of need and we are happy to be able to partner with the St. Margaret Foundation and Roots of Faith to provide the necessary vaccinations,” said Dave Patton, president, UPMC St. Margaret.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, flooding can cause the disruption of water purification and sewage disposal systems, overflowing of toxic waste sites, and dislodgement of chemicals previously stored above ground.
Although most floods do not cause serious outbreaks of infectious disease, they can cause sickness in workers and others who come in contact with contaminated floodwater. Those with open skin or wounds run the risk of contracting tetanus if not recently vaccinated, and are advised to get a tetanus shot.
Typically, tetanus boosters are administered every 10 years, but flood victims should seek vaccinations if it has been five or more years since their last one.
“This community has been devastated and communities have to serve communities. We have to come together to help our neighbors,” added Gannon. “When you ride down the streets and see the despair, you see the whole content of someone’s house in a dumpster on the curb, you know that this is a call for help.”
UPMC St. Margaret and the St. Margaret Foundation have a long history of partnering to aid the community. The Foundation coordinated a “Free Store” located in Fox Chapel Plaza where residents could pick up food, clothing, furniture and more.
The hospital also provided items such as fruit, bottled water and non-potable water for cleaning and bathing. The overall goal of UPMC St. Margaret and the St. Margaret Foundation is to provide as much support as possible to community members while they struggle to restore all they lost in the floods.
Community members still in need of the tetanus vaccine can get one at the health screenings event at the Roots of Faith community center from 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday, July 19.
To find ways to assist in supporting the community, visit the St. Margaret Foundation website.