Regis Today | Winter 2022 | Taking Action

Story by Ashley Starr

The Power of Hope

Hurricane Ida was making landfall in Louisiana in August 2021 when Donna Remmes, MSN ’20 received a call from Project HOPE, a nonprofit organization that provides medical assistance during disaster and crisis events. The very next day she was on a flight to New Orleans—ready to put her 25 years of nursing experience to good use.

Just five months earlier, Remmes—from Wrentham, Massachusetts—was working at CVS providing vaccination support when she signed up to volunteer with Project HOPE, thinking she may be sent on an assignment nearby in Boston or Rhode Island. But when she got the call to head all the way down to Louisiana, she didn’t hesitate.

Regis Today | Winter 2022 | Taking Action“I never imagined I would be doing something like this,” says Remmes, who graduated from the adult geriatric nurse practitioner (AGNP) program in Regis’ Young School of Nursing. “But it was the most important thing I have ever done as a nurse.”

Remmes credits Regis for helping prepare her for a crisis situation like the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. “Regis taught me advanced skills that allow me to practice nursing in any setting. And the cultural competence I learned as part of my courses helps me effectively communicate and treat patients in different parts of the United States, such as New Orleans, as well as those of different socioeconomic levels, ages, and races.”

And in this case, Remmes really was practicing nursing in a whole new setting. She slept at the public health department building in New Orleans for eight days because it was the only space available.

“New Orleans was in crisis,” Remmes says. “There was so much happening—no electricity citywide, ambulances and EMTs were scarce, and hospitals were overrun with COVID-19 patients.”

She found herself performing myriad tasks—from helping evacuate buildings to providing emergency medical and psychiatric care and wellness checks. While assisting in the evacuation of an elderly housing complex, Remmes noticed many residents were distraught and anxious, not knowing where they were going or when they could return to their homes. She knew she had to remain calm and focused.

Regis Today | Winter 2022 | Taking Action“I made a quick decision and jumped on the bus to make sure they had a familiar face with them,” Remmes recalls. “Once we arrived at the shelter, I stayed with the group until I found volunteers to help get them food, and I made sure there was a plan before leaving.”

Witnessing the strength and compassion of everyone she met kept Remmes motivated during difficult times.

“The people of New Orleans were incredible,” she says. “It was heartwarming to see the way they watched out for each other—offering support in any way they could.”

The Project HOPE Emergency Response Team helped provide medical services to more than 1,045 people affected by Hurricane Ida in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. Remmes says she was honored to be a member of the team, and she looks forward to answering the next call from Project HOPE and going wherever she is needed most.

“Regis taught me to serve my dear neighbors,” says Remmes. “It is a blessing to be able to contribute the best way I know how. I want to be there to help people during their most vulnerable moments—to offer comfort and hope.”


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