Physicians, leaders, spouses | Couple find comfort in each other as they help lead Tidelands Health during storms
Like many married couples in the region, Drs. William and Gayle Richmond will ride out Hurricane Dorian together.
But it won’t be in their home or in a hotel inland outside the storm’s projected path. The couple – like they have done during every hurricane since Hurricane Hugo in 1989 – will work in Tidelands Health hospitals to help ensure the health system can provide needed care to the community before, during and after the storm.
“It provides a level of understanding because we know each other so well. That helps things run smoothly,” said Dr. William Richmond, an emergency medicine physician and director of emergency services at Tidelands Health.
Not that they will have much time together. Both have key leadership roles with the health system that will keep them focused on the mission to provide care regardless of whatever Hurricane Dorian brings. Dr. William Richmond helps keep the emergency department ready to treat patients, while Dr. Gayle Richmond is an OB-GYN and chief of the health system’s medical staff.
The Richmonds are part of large team of physicians, nurses, support staff and others who work throughout a hurricane to provide needed care to the community.
Both are veterans at this. They’ve been providing care during storms for more than 30 years – nearly as long as they’ve been married.
Being at work together – even if they’re working in different Tidelands Health hospitals – is comforting.
“You know the other is safe so you can focus on problem-solving through the storm,” said Dr. Gayle Richmond.
The couple had their biggest test during the first storm they worked together -- Hurricane Hugo, which devastated the area in 1989.
Dr. Gayle Richmond, who was a solo practitioner at the time, was nine months’ pregnant, and the young couple had two other kids, ages 4 and 3. While the toddlers stayed with relatives and friends throughout the storm, the Richmonds were still concerned and didn’t know when the new baby would arrive.
“It was craziness,” Dr. William Richmond said. “That was nerve-racking. You wanted to make sure they were fine. The kids and the pregnancy made it even crazier.”
But he didn’t have much time to worry. After Hugo passed, patients flooded the emergency department at Tidelands Georgetown Memorial Hospital. Patients had snake bites and stings. Others who were trying to clean up the mess Hugo left hurt themselves with chainsaws or other equipment.
“People came in droves,” Dr. William Richmond said. “You just sort of made it work. We worked around the clock doing what you had to do.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Gayle Richmond was delivering babies and wondering if her own might arrive, too. The dedicated OB-GYN even slept in a nearby office. The couple leaned on each other to make it through the uncertainty and devastation the storm brought to the region.
“That was scary,” said Dr. Gayle Richmond, who had a healthy baby boy a week after the hurricane. “It was really, really comforting at that time having him there.”
The couple, and the health system, have learned lessons with each storm since Hurricane Hugo. As Tidelands Health has grown – now with four hospitals and more than 60 outpatient locations – its storm preparations have become more elaborate across multiple locations.
“Back then with Hurricane Hugo, it was like the frontier – you just figured it out,” Dr. William Richmond said. “Now, we’ve been through so many, we are just getting pretty good at this, unfortunately.”
Because of their different specialties, the Drs. Richmond don’t work side by side throughout the storm but still find comfort in knowing the other is nearby and safe.
“You just have someone who understands it all,” Dr. William Richmond said. “We know what is required, and that’s incredibly helpful.”