Jacci Shauger needed her big truck to get to patients in flooded areas
The first hospice patient Jacci Shauger planned to visit on August 29 was very restless, and his breathing was changing. She knew he was near death. “I really needed to get to that family,” says the Agrace nurse case manager.
But it was no ordinary day.
When the skies opened over southern Wisconsin in late August with epic rain and tornadoes, the challenges of making home hospice visits multiplied for Jacci and the rest of Agrace’s Baraboo-based care team. Over the next few weeks, they worked creatively and diligently to safely care for more than 100 hospice patients spread out over four hilly rural counties.
“I took my huge pick-up truck because they had four tornadoes in that area the night before, and there were still a lot of trees down, besides the flooding,” Jacci explains. “A lot of the roads were closed.”
One of them was the road to the patient’s home. “I could see the house, but I couldn’t get there,” she says. Turning back, she came across some National Guardsmen who told her about an unmarked road that was open. The 17-mile detour added to her grand total—125 miles for that one visit!
“I didn’t know whether the family had water or electricity, so I called ahead to see if they needed anything—jugs of water, medicine or food,” she explains. “They said, ‘His breathing has changed.’ I reassured them and kept triaging over the phone, but in that situation, they need you. They need you.”
When Jacci arrived, she found that while the patient had comfort medications, his family was hesitant to give them to him. “I did some medication teaching and got the doses increased, because he needed more,” she says. “He died the next day, at home.”
To visit her patients on August 29, RN Case Manager Amy Clark would have needed an ark. Trapped in her yard near Montello by fast-rising floodwaters and downed trees, she managed her patients’ needs by phone while other team nurses visited them in person. “You can tell families whatever you need to on the phone, but it’s better to physically show them,” she believes.
She learned one of her patients had had no electricity for days. “His daughter said rain was leaking in through the microwave and the ceiling fan. At first, I thought she meant he was hallucinating those things, but it was really happening!” Amy says.
They tried to evacuate him by car, but they got a flat tire,” explains Denise Budurov, clinical team manager. “We couldn’t get an ambulance to him right away, either. It was very, very challenging because the road was washed out.” As soon as the water receded, he was moved to Agrace’s inpatient unit in Madison for safety.
For Jacci, the spirit of the families she visited was most impressive. “It’s part of the area up here,” she notes. “The farmers, they’ve been through tough times. I’d get to a house and they’d say, ‘Come in, we’ll make you a sandwich.’ They’re tough—and they make do.”