ALWAYS READY TO HELP
As a trained registered nurse and stay-at-home mom, Katie Gooding of Bluffton knows what juggling feels like.
She is a Red Cross Disaster Cycle Services volunteer and works as part of a multi-disciplinary team of nurses, spiritual care providers, mental health professionals, and recovery planners who help people when disaster strikes. They are equipped to handle large-scale disasters, like tornadoes and floods, but most of their work focuses on fires.
According to the Red Cross website, the organization responds to more than 60,000 disasters every year, and 90 percent of those are home fires. On average, seven people die each day, and 36 people suffer injuries as a result of home fires.
Gooding’s team gets involved after disasters happen. She is one of six nurses who cover fires in the South Carolina Lowcountry Red Cross chapter, an area that includes Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton, Jasper, Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.
Recovery planners are the first people to respond. Part of their job is talking to victims about their medical needs. When medical equipment and prescriptions are lost in disasters, replacing them can be an emergency, especially for someone with complex health conditions. The nurse on call helps get people what they need by making calls to pharmacies and other providers.
Gooding is on call one week each month. She never knows what to expect. When disasters happen, those affected don’t always think clearly and can need a lot of support.
A slow week for Gooding might mean one or two calls.
But when a large fire in an apartment building affects multiple families, she gets very busy. Her favorite part of volunteering is being part of the team.
“When I get overwhelmed, there’s always someone I can call to help,” Gooding said.
Gooding has three sons, ages 4, 8, and 11 years old. Her husband is a project manager for a manufacturing company who travels during the week for work.
She studied chemistry at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, and then went back to school for her bachelor’s degree in nursing.
As an RN she worked in women’s health in Arizona and in pediatrics in Georgia. She moved to Bluffton in 2014. When her second child was born, she decided to stay at home with the kids.
Gooding was drawn to the Red Cross because she was interested in disaster preparedness and wanted a way to contribute beyond her family.
“I don’t sit still well,” said Gooding, who has been a volunteer since 2018.
She said she likes to learn new things all the time, and nursing keeps her engaged. And it offers variety.
“Nurses are always expanding their knowledge base, and if one field isn’t the right fit for you, you can always find something new,” she said.
To balance volunteering with motherhood, she relies on her parents, who recently moved to the area.
They’re always available to take the kids for a few hours. She tries to get as much work done as possible when the kids are in school. She’s learned to respect her own limits by not jumping at every opportunity to take on more. And her husband and kids have learned that when mom is on call, she might spend a lot of time on the phone and dinner might be takeout.
“Moms are expert jugglers, and most of the time, I’m winging it,” Gooding said.
But her kids seem to understand that she’s doing important work that helps the community.
“I can’t imagine going through a disaster with kids,” she said. “And it makes me feel good knowing there are people out there to help me if it happens.”
PHOTOS BY RUTHE RITTERBECK