Heroes don’t all wear capes. Some wear … (checks notes) … snowshoes.
Well, Pam Woods does at least.
Let me explain.
Pam is a physical therapist at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady. She and her fiance live in the Stockade.
They’re both outdoorsy types — Adirondack 46ers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers.
When the big Dec. 17 snowstorm hit overnight, Pam was like many of us in the region — snowed in.
When she popped out her front door at 5:30 a.m. to check the scene, the notoriously narrow streets of the Stockade were knee-high in snow and impassable.
It was still coming down. Driving to work, she knew, would be out of the question.
After assessing the situation, Pam jumped on an online group chat with some Sunnyview colleagues.
Quickly, it became clear that many staffers — including critical nurses and kitchen employees — would be challenged to make it in on time, if at all, that day.
Those who could would have to pull out all the stops to get there.
“There’s really no ‘snow days’ for the hospital,” she told me. “The hospital always has to stay open.
“That meant to me I should definitely try to get to work, even if it meant walking.”
And so she did.
Like the true outdoor adventurer she is, Pam, who is 26, came up with a trip plan.
As a Schenectady native, she knows the city well.
She’d set out on foot — snowshoes, actually — from her house and met up with a colleague who also lives in the Stockade.
Together, they’d continue on in the direction of Sunnyview, hoping to eventually rendezvous with another colleague who was able to drive.
The going was fairly slow, the snow deep. But with her new snowshoes, purchased to do her Winter ADK 46 this year, Pam was able to make her way swiftly.
Eventually she met her Stockade neighbor-colleague and then the two met the third. And off they drove, slowly, to Sunnyview.
The plan worked perfectly. They made it in plenty of time for their 8:30 a.m. start.
“I actually got in a little bit early, which was so funny,” Pam said. “We were all laughing about it.”
Once they arrived, Pam and company joined a handful of other colleagues who also braved the weather that morning, including Sunnyview’s retired-as-of-this-week CEO Chip Eastman (who also walked to work) and new CEO Kim Baker (she drove 20-plus miles in the storm to make it on time).
The group assembled for an ad hoc staff meeting to divvy up the most crucial tasks.
It was all hands on deck.
One of the top priorities was staffing up the kitchen to prepare and serve breakfast.
All but one of the kitchen staff called in that morning, but the work still had to get done. In the words of Sunnyview spokesman Rob Puglisi: “We had a hospital full of patients who needed their nourishment!”
Another vital task involved the process of helping patients to get out of bed and moving.
It’s a challenging job in any medical environment, but especially so in an orthopedic and neuro rehabilitation facility like Sunnyview.
They specialize in patients who’ve suffered brain injuries, strokes, spinal-cord injuries and also injuries from auto accidents and surgeries.
For her part, Pam jumped into the fray in the kitchen, preparing meals and restocking the refrigerators.
Eventually she took on other tasks, including the resupplying of medical equipment and other vital materials. Her regular duties as a therapist would have to wait.
About once every hour, the staffers on hand met briefly with managers to regroup and refocus on the next steps.
They’d get their new marching orders and disperse. It became a well-oiled machine — albeit a jury-rigged one.
“I do think it was a really good allocation of resources that day,” Pam said.
“And because all of that went so smoothly, [patients] were starting to get therapy by the afternoon.”
Pam doesn’t consider herself a hero, but she is proud of being part of a team that endured despite all of the challenges posed by the 30-plus-inch snowstorm.
She’s also been inspired to try to walk the 2 miles to work whenever possible, something she hadn’t done before the storm.
“Now I’ve started to walk and this kind of boosted me into walking,” she said. “It’s really not that far.”
Miles Reed is editor of The Daily Gazette.
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