— AMERICUS, Ga. — The staff of a Georgia hospital is reaching out to colleagues they've never met but with whom they feel connected as tornado survivors.
Sumter Regional Hospital took a direct hit from a tornado that devastated this city on March 1, 2007. Last week, the staff of the rebuilt hospital sympathized when they saw reports of a monster tornado that badly damaged Moore Medical Center south of Oklahoma City.
"The hospital damaged looked eerily similar to how our hospital looked - right down to the cars being mashed in the parking lot," said Marcus Johnson, spokesman for Phoebe Sumter Medical Center.
The tornado that hit Americus leveled dozens of buildings and killed two people. The local hospital, Sumter Regional, eventually had to be demolished, too. A new 76-bed hospital, aligned with Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in nearby Albany, reopened in its place in December 2011.
In Oklahoma, engineers have yet to decide if Moore Medical Center's building can be salvaged. It took a direct hit from the May 20 tornado that destroyed more than 12,500 homes and killed two dozen people. All 30 of the patients inside the Moore facility, as well as its 300 employees, survived the storm.
Johnson and his coworkers have been collecting money for employees of Moore Medical Center affected by the tornado. Their donation will come with an oversized greeting - a banner signed with words of encouragement.
It's similar to their gesture to colleagues at St. John's Medical Center, which was severely damaged by the tornado that struck Joplin, Mo., two years ago. Johnson said the Americus hospital received a similar overture in 2007 from a hospital on the Gulf Coast that had been damaged during Hurricane Katrina.
“Just the fact that someone that doesn’t even know you is pulling for you and supporting you did wonders for our employees," he said, "and we hope that our gesture does the same for them.”
Details for this story were reported by the Americus, Ga., Times-Recorder.