DaVita® Stories

DaVita Teammate Shows Bravery During Devastating California Fire

Editor’s note: Becoming the sixth most destructive fire in California history, the Carr Fire ravaged the state’s Shasta and Trinity Counties this summer. The fire destroyed at least 1,077 homes and resulted in eight fatalities. DaVita Facility Administrator Michelle Brouillard was one of many caught in the path. Below, she shares her harrowing story.

It all started on a Monday, when two of the DaVita Redding Dialysis patients couldn’t make it down for treatment because the fire had caused the 299 Highway to close. I immediately knew we had to spring into action, so I coordinated treatment for those patients in clinics closer to their homes.

By Thursday, the fire was spreading rapidly. And to add to my worry, my parents – who live just outside of Redding – called to tell me they had to evacuate their home.  I left work early on Thursday to go check on them, but I left my house open so friends who had been evacuated could find shelter there.

Right as I was about to head to my parents’ place, I called the clinic and asked my RN not to set the alarm since I would be back to make phone calls to both teammates and patients.  However, the wind changed direction and the fire tornado started moving in our direction. I then noticed that the land between my and my neighbor’s house was on fire, so I stopped my car and called out to my partner.  As I called 911 to report, she started looking for garden hose to help save our neighbor’s house. At that time, the police officer came down our street and told me to leave as the fire was still heading our way. I left with our animals and proceeded to the endless line of vehicles.  What normally only takes me 10-15 minutes took me about 3 hours to get to the clinic.

While I was in line, I reached out to Brooke, a patient care technician at my clinic, and asked her to head to the clinic for me since she was closer. I talked her through printing out the most recent patient summaries and she started faxing them to our Chico Clinic.  She left the clinic about 11:30 p.m. to meet up with family that had evacuated to her home.  When I arrived around to the clinic around midnight, I completed the rest of the patient files and grabbed my Disaster Binder and patient and teammate schedules.

I then called our Nursing Staff to let them know that the clinic was going to be open since it then looked like the fire was heading in a different direction.  My Regional Coordinator Stacy Kaczor helped me by informing DaVert and having them on standby.  At that time our clinic was not in jeopardy.

I had also reached out to my Regional Director who proceeded to help me at the Redding Clinic on Friday.   I came in at 4:30 a.m. to answer phones and to reassure patients that we were open to provide treatments.  My Regional Director Stephanie Samra and Shawna Reynolds started calling patients to find out if they were evacuated.  I called DaVita Admissions to secure facilities for approximately 14 patients who had been evacuated.  We were able to locate another 4 patients at shelters and ensure times for their treatments.

One of our patients did not want to come to dialysis due to feeling dirty and not being able to leave his dogs in the car (He had evacuated so was living out of his car, and it was over 100 degrees during the day.). I offered to put him on the last shift (less people) and I would watch his dogs so that he could treat. He agreed and did not miss any of his treatments.

As far as the rest of my teammates, I reached out to make sure they were okay and had a place to stay.  I had 2 evacuated teammates that needed hotel rooms.  The others, including myself, stayed with family.  I kept both the team and patients informed.  I attended the community meetings and was able to share resource information if anyone needed it.   I made an area in the lobby with key information on food banks, shelters and information on safety tips for when going back to your home after being evacuated. I would check on patients and teammates throughout the day, staying calm and answering questions as I could.

But on Friday, the fire picked up again and started coming back in the direction of our clinic.  I knew everyone was nervous and looking out at the smoke cloud and seeing it grow. Our day was almost complete, and I was able to reassure the team and patients that we were okay.  It was all about not panicking and staying calm.  This was a huge event that happened to our town.  The fire has devastated many of our families’ and friends’ homes.  And I lost my cousin.  His house was completely destroyed by the fire, and his remains were found inside. I think I am still in disbelief at this time.

What I am most thankful for is my team.  They kept me going through humor, hugs, and making things happen.  It was touching to see everyone wanting to help and recognizing a difficult situation and making it work for both the team and patients.  I am truly blessed to have so much love and thoughtfulness around me.

Michelle Brouillard

Michelle Brouillard

I have been a part of the Village for 9 years as a Facility Administrator. DaVita provided me the opportunity to have a career in my hometown of Redding California. I had been away for 15 years. Being closer to family and old friends has been a blessing.