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North Dakota medical teams return from hurricane-stricken North Carolina

Teddi-Lyn Bergquist, a nurse at CHI St. Alexius in Bismarck, was part of two teams of 28 nurses, EMTs and paramedics from North Dakota who flew to North Carolina in September to assist in the recovery from Hurricane Florence. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK—Before she deployed to aid hurricane relief in North Carolina, Teddi-Lyn Bergquist had never done anything like it before.

"That's why I wanted to become a nurse, to do mission trips," the Wing, N.D., native and CHI St. Alexius nurse said Monday. "So when I heard of this opportunity, I was super excited and just jumped on it."

Bergquist was part of two teams of 28 nurses, EMTs and paramedics from North Dakota who flew to North Carolina in September to aid in relief efforts after Hurricane Florence, participating under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact—essentially an agreement among states to aid each other in disaster relief.

Bergquist has been a nurse at St. Alexius in Bismarck for more than two years and will start a new position there in interventional radiology this week. She left for North Carolina on Sept. 19 and returned Sunday, Sept. 30.

She was stationed at two medical shelters to assess patients' needs, including one for eight days in an impoverished area. Bergquist said a few patients had to be hospitalized. One patient had pneumonia, and another man had chronic poor health, she said.

"It was really, really sad and whatnot because these people were already devastated from the hurricane that happened two years ago, and that they barely got rebuilt if they did get rebuilt, so now they're suffering from this again," Bergquist said. "It was very sad to see it."

Among her team were a coworker from St. Alexius, a retired nurse and other medical personnel from Grand Forks, Jamestown and New Rockford. Bergquist also said she wished they could have deployed earlier to relieve shelter workers operating on 24-hour shifts.

"I felt like we did help them out a lot, especially hearing their stories, how long of days they were pulling," she said. "It was nice to relieve those nurses and people to go back to their families."

North Dakota Emergency Preparedness and Response Section Chief Tim Wiedrich commended the teams' response to Hurricane Florence and communication between the two states.

"We are grateful to have qualified health professionals willing to volunteer in public health emergencies. The first-hand disaster response experience obtained through these missions is invaluable. It strengthens North Dakota's state response efforts as well," he said in a statement.

State Department of Health spokeswoman Jennifer Skjod said seven medical personnel from the Bismarck-Mandan area were part of North Dakota's EMAC response to North Carolina. Fifteen people deployed from Bismarck, including medical personnel from smaller areas, according to Skjod. The teams returned to North Dakota from Friday to Sunday.

EMAC teams from North Dakota deployed twice in 2017 for hurricane relief in Florida and Texas. In 2009 and 2011, EMAC teams from other states responded to North Dakota due to flooding. EMAC teams are formed from a pool of medical personnel who volunteer to respond if needed.

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