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Nurse’s Photo of the Marshall Wildfire Perfectly Sums Up 2021


Last year didn’t exactly go as planned. Instead of defeating the coronavirus and reemerging from lockdown, the pandemic raged on, putting unprecedented pressure on the healthcare industry. But that was just the start. Massive wildfires, drought, and other natural disasters added to the chaos in some parts of the country.

Wendy Cardona, a nurse in Colorado, finished out the year taking care of her patients at the Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette. She snapped a photo of the Marshall wildfire from the hospital window as it ripped through the local community. The picture has become an instant classic and perfectly sums up the last 12 months.

A Moment in Time

Cardona and several other nurses were standing in the hallway of the hospital watching the Marshall wildfire from a distance. That’s when she decided to take out her phone and snap a picture of the scene. The picture shows one nurse illuminated by her phone while three others look out the window. In the distance, you can see the flames of the fire bursting out of the trees. It depicts a grim scene: an entire community devastated in the middle of a pandemic.

“Immediately, it was a sum up of what 2021 was,” Cardona said. “Just a complete mess.”


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A post shared by Wendy (@ridingthewendywaves)

She was working at the hospital on December 30 when the fire first broke out. It was an especially dry, arid day and the high winds helped the fire spread through 6,000 acres of Boulder County in a matter of hours.

“The surgical technologist and I were getting ready for a case,” Cardona said. “We smelled smoke, noticed there was commotion and then we were informed to stop opening instrumentation due to the fires.”

That gave her some time to see what was going on outside.

“I was taken aback by what I was seeing through that window. Between EMS lining up to transport critically ill patients […] seeing fire trucks drive up and down 287 trying to control these flames,” Cardona said. “Watching these flames approach the hospital […] I was standing there feeling completely helpless.”

Around 60,000 people were evacuated during the wildfire.

“I will never forget December 30, 2021. It was a day that wreaked a lot of havoc, caused a lot of fear, and it was the day before a snowstorm that came a little too late,” she said.

To help the community recover from the fire, Cardona recently set up a GoFundMe campaign. The state has already raised millions of dollars in aid, but Cardona wants to pitch in.

Around one thousand homes were lost, leaving thousands of people without a place to stay.

“I can only speak for myself, but I am deeply saddened at the tragic loss, the loss of homes, pets and treasured memories. This photo has received a lot of attention and I just want to use this in some small measure as a means to help those so deeply affected deal with their losses and this trauma,” she added.

She has already raised over $12,000 of her $50,000 goal.

“I want this campaign to offer the opportunity to those who have lost so much to be able to replace an item that would bring them joy, whether it be a yoga mat, favorite running shoes, headphones, a favorite anything that would bring a moment of joy as it once did before this tragedy,” she wrote. “Joy is what has helped me through times where I felt I couldn’t keep going.  I see this as a moment where we as a community can help lift others up who have lost so much, many indeed all, and bring small measures of joy to them as [a] method of healing.”

She also took some time to say thanks to all the brave first responders that helped the community get through the wildfire.

“Another subtly that I do not want to get lost in this picture is the brave men and women it shows answering the call to action,” she added. “You can see ambulances lined up outside of this hospital to take patients out of harm’s way to the safety of other medical facilities. This same response played out at many hospitals in the evacuation zones with many other medical professionals.”

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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