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Indian Path nutrition director walks three miles in ice storm to keep patients fed

Kevin Castle • Jan 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Just about every major street and road in Kingsport had a coat of ice early Sunday morning. This left Melony Haun in quite a bind. She had a hospital with hungry patients and a support staff who could get stuck coming to work.

“Nobody is going to go hungry, not on my watch,” said Haun, director of food and nutrition for Indian Path Medical Center.

What would have been an ordinary trip to work became extraordinary during those icy early hours.

Staffers at Indian Path called Haun at 1:30 a.m. to let her know road conditions were getting worse and a food preparation worker had already called in because of the weather, leaving the morning meals in doubt.

“My husband, the trouper that he is, decided to help me get to work. So we got the truck out around 3 a.m., and we could see cars (from our house) stopped along the road,” said Haun.

“We only went a (short distance) before we were in the ditch. My husband wasn’t happy with what I had decided, but I knew that I had to make it into work because I wasn’t sure at that point who, if anybody, was going to make it in. So I started my walk to the hospital.”

From that point to Indian Path was approximately three miles, and breakfast meals were due to be served to patients at 7:30 a.m.

Haun began walking on Memorial Boulevard, up the on-ramp onto John B. Dennis Highway, and straight ahead to the hospital, over ice and snow in temperatures in the 30s.

“I had gone ahead and put my driver’s license in my back pocket. You never know what might happen when you are out like that. So I wanted to have some I.D. ready in case something bad happened to me,” said Haun.

“I counted at least 40 vehicles that were either stopped or in the ditch as I walked. There was an ambulance facing the wrong direction, a fire truck that was stuck, and a police car that had flashers on, and he was basically not going anywhere, so I knew it was bad.”

Haun made it into Indian Path at 4:40 a.m. — 1½ hours later — and found that A.M. cafe supervisor Sue Fife had already made it to work, but the kitchen was still undermanned to prepare breakfast for 109 patients that morning.

That’s when some nurses and other hospital employees — Lauren Oberfeitinger, Sarah Pack, Stasha McMurray, Whitney Alley, Kristena Middleton, Karen Lewis and Kim Vanzant — came on their own to help with meal preparation.

“We had those ladies making cream of wheat, frying bacon, but they were never kept too far away that they couldn’t be back in time to do their patient rounds. It was just the best example of a true commitment to patient care I have ever seen,” said Haun.

“I’ve worked in (several hospitals) over the years, and I can honestly tell you that I’ve never seen an effort like this, where people come together to make things work like this. That shows you how special our patients are to us.”

“The response by our Team Members and Food Service Staff on Sunday was absolutely overwhelming,” Monty McLaurin, VP and CEO of Indian Path Medical Center said. “In what seemed like an impossible situation, our folks continued their determination to provide the utmost in patient centered care. That is our philosophy and our way of life here at IPMC; keeping the patients’ mental, physical and emotional needs at the forefront of our minds. These Team Members are a proud example of our Team as a whole.”

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