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Joplin hospital copes with tornado’s aftermath

The Wall Street Journal, May 25, 2011

A harrowing scene greeted Allen Overturf as he arrived for work Sunday evening at Freeman West Medical Center. Overturf, a registered nurse and director of critical care, saw scores of people who had been injured in a massive tornado arriving on the backs of trucks—some private and some police department vehicles. Some of those arriving were severely ill patients of St. John's Regional Medical Center, the Joplin hospital about two blocks away that minutes earlier had taken a direct hit from the twister, shearing off its roof. Nurses in the backs of trucks were manually giving oxygen to people who had been on ventilators until the twister slammed into St. John's, Overturf said. He said some St. John's nurses had dashed into rooms there filled with gas and water from broken pipes, carried patients down the stairs, loaded them on trucks and driven them to Freeman. Some of those nurses then remained with their patients at Freeman. People were brought into Freeman with "brains exposed, vertebrae exposed, amputations," Overturf said. "It was awful."