Tiffanie Powell, a planner in MD Anderson's Facilities department, coordinates new construction and renovations to ensure necessary equipment, rooms and offices at the institution are up and running. But in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Powell found herself in a unique situation for the first time since she arrived at MD Anderson 15 years ago. Instead of focusing on repairs at work, she faced massive repairs at home.
"This wasn't my first hurricane, and I live in a house on a hill, so I didn't think anything was going to happen. We went to the grocery store, we got sand bags and my son built up a fort around the door. That Sunday we experienced a lot of rain, but the water only reached the front of my garage," says Powell. "The next day, I went into panic mode. I walked into my son's room to wake him and stepped into ankle-deep water."
The water came in through the back of the house, flooding each bedroom. She walked through chest-high water to a neighbor's home, where they waited several hours to be rescued by boat and then evacuated to a local shelter.
To help displaced employees such as Powell, MD Anderson encouraged support for its Caring Fund, which provides financial assistance to employees affected by government-declared natural disasters. Support poured in from employees, patients and their families, Cancer Network members, the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors (BOV) and the Advance Team advisory board. The fund also benefited from sales of #MDAndersonStrong T-shirts, designed in recognition of the team spirit that enabled the institution to weather the storm.
"These employees are part of our MD Anderson family," says Marsha Shields, BOV chair-elect. "Since that catastrophic week, their predispositions to care for others have driven them to continue to work and to serve our cancer patients in need. Now it's time for us to help care for them as they struggle to reestablish some degree of normalcy to their personal lives."
Powell, who received support from the Caring Fund, is grateful for the resources MD Anderson has offered employees following the hurricane.
"To have this source of hope, it really means a lot," she says. "It touches my heart, and I just want to say thank you."