When Hurricane Harvey hit south Texas in August 2017, Ed Lee was prepared.
Imagine a 5-foot-tall person standing completely submerged in water. Sixty inches — that’s how much rain fell in parts of south Texas when Hurricane Harvey hit in August 2017, displacing 30,000 people. Not everyone in Texas was ready, but Ed Lee was.
As director of emergency services at Medical City McKinney, Lee was testing his disaster preparedness before Harvey came onto the radar. The weekend before the storm, his team was on hand to address medical needs for a 17,000-person bicycling race as a deployment exercise for the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force.
“I’ve stayed involved with training for years so I’ll be prepared in the event of a large-scale disaster,” Lee says. “We actually did a drill the year prior with some smaller outlying hospitals. Once we knew this storm was coming, I raised my hand.”
HCA Healthcare’s North Texas Division sent 100 volunteers south, including Lee’s team of 45 nurses. In Houston, they set up a 40-bed emergency room in the old city hall. Locals arrived with hot meals and opened the police station so the nurses could shower.
After five days, things began to stabilize, so Lee’s team went down to Beaumont, setting up a makeshift ER at the airport. For two weeks, he and his team provided care wherever they could, treating more than 255 victims.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Lee. “We worked with EMTs, nurses and doctors from around the state, but looking at us, you would never know that we had never met each other prior to that deployment. We just did what we had to do. The devastation was terrible, but those nurses stayed with their patients. They fought the floods to stay and provide care. It was an honor to step in and help them do it.”
Stepping up to help people in need is a skill Lee has always had.
“I remember in elementary school in the early ’90s, Ghostbusters was huge, and my friend got knocked in the head by a toy proton pack,” he says. “He had a huge gash on his head, and I remember running to grab towels, trying to stop the bleeding, getting his parents to take him to the ER. It always stuck in my mind — how cool it was to help somebody.”
Years later, Lee took a health occupations course at Medical City Plano, a sister facility of Medical City McKinney. It solidified his love of emergency medicine and led him to become a licensed certified nurse assistant — as a junior in high school.
As a senior, he was the first student and youngest person to be hired part-time in the ER. In college, he volunteered at the campus-run EMS department, fielding 911 calls and dispatching ambulances.
“I always knew emergency medicine was for me,” Lee says. “It’s especially humbling to end up back at the sister facility of where I started out, leading some of the same nurses who took me under their wing.”
Under Lee’s leadership, employee engagement and many quality indicators have improved, and he remains committed to keeping his mission simple.
“At HCA Healthcare, we care about the patients we take care of and the community we’re in,” he says. “It’s about human life, whether it’s our peers or staff or vendors or volunteers. That’s a main driving factor of why I love HCA Healthcare and why I enjoy working here.”
Compassionate Care Finalists
Cheryl Carlson, BSN, RN
The Medical Center of Aurora
A dedicated ICU nurse for more than 30 years, Cheryl Carlson can often be found sitting at the bedside of her patients, holding their hands and offering encouragement. She was so moved by the vigil of a dying teenage patient’s family, she came up with a lasting memory of their final days together, using craft store supplies to create a plaster mold of their intertwined hands. The memento is deeply treasured, and now the Anthony’s Hands project is underway for others facing such loss.
Thara Tapie, RN
Riverside Community Hospital
Thara Tapie opens her heart to patients at Riverside Community Hospital every day. She has shared her own story of surviving cancer with women undergoing treatment, offering hope when they needed it most. When one patient received the news that her cancer had progressed too far and she had limited time, Tapie did all the paperwork to apply to the Dream Foundation for the woman’s final wish. Because of those efforts, mom and daughter enjoyed a two-day trip to Disneyland to celebrate the girl’s fifth birthday.