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Parish nurse serves storm-damaged community


By Kara Witherow, Editor

Debbie Weaver has never seen disaster like the kind Hurricane Michael wrought on the residents of her rural community.

A parish nurse at Reynolds Chapel United Methodist Church, she’s used to blood pressure checks, teaching CPR, explaining medications, and the like. But Hurricane Michael, which nearly destroyed Donalsonville, also changed Weaver’s ministry and how she serves her patients.

With more than 700 homes in the community, Weaver can’t visit each resident individually. After the storm passed and they could safely travel, she and another community nurse made visits by referral and triaged patients according to severity of need.

“We’re still in emergency mode. Our biggest struggle has been reaching people and finding and meeting their needs,” Weaver said. “The big issues are hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory problems. We have an ongoing need for supplies.”

As she traveled throughout the community, which lies 20 miles outside of Donalsonville on Lake Sinclair, Weaver found people living in tents because their homes had been demolished, torn apart by winds and trees. Many were living without power or generators even though they needed it for oxygen, breathing treatments, or to keep insulin cool.

Through it all, Weaver and nurse Karen Cook, a member of Lake Seminole Baptist Church, were doing their best to manage the needs of their patients.

“We are out here trying to get the healthcare needs of our community better under control,” Weaver said.

Every church needs to have a health care ministry, she says, in times of normalcy and especially during a crisis. The programs are important to help educate congregants about their medical needs, conditions, and diagnoses; to help connect them to needed resources; and to help them navigate through the healthcare system. In times of chaos and crisis, it’s important for churches to serve as points of refuge, places of calm in the storm, and pillars of hope amid the hurt.

Although Hurricane Michael has passed, the storm’s effects are, for many, life changing. No matter the situation, Weaver will be there, to help, to heal, and to listen.

“We know that a lot of the needs down the road are going to be people who just need to tell their stories,” Weaver said, noting that the storm has given her an even bigger way to serve the community. “And that’s part of health ministry, listening to those stories.

“Serving Jesus, being the hands and feet of Jesus, that’s what we’re about.”

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