Cynthia Persily, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dr. Persily is the CEO of Highland Hospital in Charleston, WV
I can’t begin to express how proud I am to be a West Virginian, and especially after the last week. As most of our readers know, last Thursday, areas of West Virginia were deluged by heavy rainfalls, and many areas flooded to historic proportions. Twenty three lives have been confirmed as lost, some are still missing. At least 2000 homes have been reported as damaged or completely lost. Those who lived through the rising water tell stories of being rescued by neighbors in boats, of taking refuge on their roofs, and of a long, frightening night worried about friends, loved ones, and their property.
Our Highland family has been impacted. Several have lost their homes. Some have taken in family members who lost everything. Still others have been helping family and friends to salvage anything from their former residences and lives.
Why am I proud to be a West Virginian? Because of just what I said above. West Virginians come together at a time of need, we band together to donate anything we can to help others, and we stand in mud and contaminated water to try to help our friends and neighbors gain some semblance of control over a devastating situation. Our staff has filled an entire conference room with donations for those in our community in need. Board members have donated funds to the effort. Our HR department has worked with those affected to assure that their needs are being met. At our local Rotary meeting on Monday, just three days (2 of them weekend days!) after the flooding began, our members donated two truckloads of items to the United Way to be used in the cleanup, including bleach, paper towels, mops, shovels, and items to sustain those working there like bottled water and non-perishable foods.
Our WV American Red Cross had shelters set up quickly, and has over 400 volunteers working in affected areas, served countless meals, providing mental health services, and facilitating other health care. Our local Health Right Free and Charitable clinic was in the area numerous days to provide tetanus shots, medications, and care. Our local Community Mental Health Center has sent crisis teams. Last night, I met a FEMA worker from Kansas who was here to help our citizens. He was missing his own vacation with his family and grandchildren to be here and help West Virginians. Our “native stars” including Brad Paisley, and our “adopted stars” like Bubba Watson have generously given to the relief funds, and used their considerable influence to get others to do so as well. That’s why I’m proud to be a West Virginian.
Why else am I proud to be a West Virginian? We haven’t heard much about the other terrible things that happen after natural disasters like this that occur in other parts of the country or world. There have not been reports of looting, there is no rioting, people are waiting patiently for supplies and for care, neighbors are helping neighbors, strangers are reaching out to say “How can we help?”, or they are rolling up their sleeves and helping. That’s why I’m proud to be a West Virginian.
Finally, I’m proud to be a West Virginian because I know that no matter how many times we are knocked down by natural and man-made disasters, we will get right back up and support each other. We are resilient. And, inevitably, when we feel like we are at the end of our collective ropes, we will be here to help each other still. The Highland companies are proud to be a part of this state, and we know that in the days and weeks to come we will be able to help countless people who need us. That’s why I’m proud to be a West Virginian.