Hurricane Irma Hits Home for Alumna

February 21, 2018 at 10:36 AM / by UC College of Nursing

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When alumna Linda Cifani looked outside one day in early September, she could see a tar-black sky and threatening clouds moving toward her costal Florida city. She knew Hurricane Irma would hit soon.“I thought about evacuating, but partly because of my job, it is difficult,” Cifani says. “To bail on the staff and patients is really hard, so I stayed behind to pick up the pieces.”

Cifani, ’84, moved to Naples, Fla. soon after she graduated — a city she fell in love with after multiple family vacations. She works as an ARNP and Director of the Naples Heart Institute, part of NCH Healthcare Group.

Cifani’s house sits on a canal about a half-mile away from the Gulf of Mexico. Since her arrival in Naples, she has been through five significant hurricanes, but this one stands out in her mind.

“This was probably one of the worst hurricanes I have stayed through,” Cifani says.

Destruction in the wake of Hurricane Irma in the northern Caribbean islands and Florida’s Gulf Coast is estimated between $42.5 to $65 billion. Cifani says the city of Naples lost power for 11 days, and the debris and land destruction will take at least six months to clean up.

“The first couple days after the storm were really difficult,” Cifani says. “Just finding something to drink was a treat with the power being off and most of the restaurants closed for days after the storm.”

For nursing staff of NCH Healthcare Group, it was all hands on deck during the hurricane. According to Cifani, nurses worked 72- to 96-hour shifts to make up for the nurses who evacuated.

“A lot of people were traumatized by the hurricane and say they will never stay again because of how scary it was,” Cifani says. “They really do rely on the medical professionals to be calm and
prepared for these types of situations.”

Before the hurricane, some gas stations gave medical personnel priority access so they could fill up and get to work, says Cifani. After Irma, the hospital did not require nurses to wear uniform scrubs because of issues with the water and sewer systems that made it difficult to wash clothes.

Calling herself very fortunate, Cifani was grateful that nothing of hers was destroyed in the hurricane, but she and others rallied around those whose homes were damaged or who were injured in the storm.

“After a tragedy like this happens, the community really comes together and strangers help each other, which is really nice to see,” Cifani says.

Despite relocating to Florida soon after graduation, Cianfi hasn’t forgotten her UC community and has supported the College of Nursing over the years.

By: Tiffany Walker

Topics: magazine, alumni spotlight