Reagan Hightower, RN, 25, and Dr. Dan McKinley, 29, have never met but shared an incredible experience.
At a moment’s notice, the two of them bought plane tickets to the Philippines to help survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon on record: a category five super typhoon that ripped through Southeast Asia early Nov. 2013. McKinley was there Nov. 22-Dec. 5 and Reagan was there Dec. 8-18.
“I just couldn’t stop thinking about it,” said Hightower, a nurse in the emergency department at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City. “I really wanted to get over there, but I figured it would be restricted to Red Cross workers. Then, I found an organization online and submitted my application. They called me the next day and I bought my ticket.”
Located an hour and a half south on Interstate 35, Mercy Hospital Ardmore’s emergency medicine physician McKinley was packing for his birthday trip to New York City. His plans and pack changed significantly when he was asked to assist another organization’s medical relief mission.
“I knew I wanted to help and started reaching out to some of the organizations I have done relief trips with in the past,” McKinley said. “One of my colleagues referred me to a group and I soon had an email asking me to be ready to go on Nov. 22, my birthday.”
After traveling for almost 24 hours, the two met their respective teams. Hightower was with Heart to Heart, International, an organization whose mission is to provide ongoing medical care and supplies to communities in need worldwide. McKinley was with Remote Area Medical (RAM), a group that focuses on quick response disaster medicine across the globe as well as providing health care in underprivileged areas across the United States.
Some of the team members had no idea what to expect but McKinley helped in the 2010 Haiti earthquake relief efforts and had experience with disaster medicine. Hightower wasn’t new to the experience, either. She was 19 when she went on her first mission trip to Tanzania. Since then, she’s been on missions to Haiti and Honduras and — this year alone — has gone on medical missions to Costa Rica and Rwanda and served in Mercy’s Moore tornado relief tent.
Each day in their separate groups, Hightower and McKinley would wake up before sunrise and travel to local villages, seeing up to 300 people per day. An average Oklahoma City metro hospital emergency department sees 150 people per day.
“We saw everything from typhoon injuries to undiagnosed skin cancers,” Hightower said. “Some people had gone their entire lives without getting to see a doctor, so we helped them, too. We didn’t want to leave until everyone who wanted medical attention got it.”
The days were long and exhausting. Hightower recalls one day working a nine-hour shift, then driving through six hours of ravaged island back to their base, where they slept in 90-plus degree temperatures in tents inside a damaged church. She compared the typhoon damage in the Philippines to the worst of the tornado wreckage she saw in Moore this summer.
“I remember driving into the very hardest hit neighborhoods in Moore and being heartbroken by the destruction, but I remember driving out of those areas, too.” Hightower said. “In the Philippines, you could drive for hours and hours and never see the end of the devastation.”
Despite their grim surroundings, Hightower said the people were hopeful and happy. Both she and McKinley say they were honored to be able to help.
“I’m grateful to have a job that allows me the freedom to do these expeditions,” McKinley said.
Hightower echoed McKinley’s sentiments.
“On these missions, you connect with people from a completely different life and culture than you,” she said. “It’s neat to be able to serve like that. It’s an incredible way I get to use my profession skills to fulfill my passion for serving Christ.”
When Di Smalley, regional president of Mercy in Oklahoma, heard that these co-workers had taken it upon themselves to answer the call to help, she was inspired.
“Reagan and Dr. McKinley’s initiative and self sacrifice speak to the incredible passion our co-workers have for helping people — here, and around the world,” Smalley said. “I’m really proud of them and their leaders for making arrangements so they could go, too. What an uplifting and selfless group.”
This April, McKinley plans on going to the Dominican Republic for yet another medical mission and in July will return for a pediatric cardiac surgery mission.
Although she hasn’t decided her next trip, Hightower says she always has her ears open for opportunity to help.
Reagan Hightower, RN, 25, and Dr. Dan McKinley, 29, have never met but shared an incredible experience.
Oklahoma sales tax takes a holiday
Beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 1 and ending at midnight Aug. 3, Oklahomans will be able to participate in a sales tax holiday giving shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain clothing and shoes free of sales tax.
Yes, retailers may not charge tax, including state and local sales taxes on items that are tax-exempt during the sales tax holiday weekend. The sales of clothing and shoes priced at less than $100 are exempted from sales taxes.
Peace through Business empowering women entrepreneurs
Peace Through Business is part of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) based in Oklahoma City. It is a program that connects small business entrepreneurs in Afghanistan and Rwanda with business owners in Oklahoma. One such entrepreneur found out about the program from a friend, applied, and was accepted to take part in this year’s session.
Upon earning a master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Universite de Sciences et Technique de Lille in Belgium, Lyliose Nduhungirehe began her career working for a construction company in Brussels, but she quickly switched paths to Information Technology.
Anderson Properties continues to grow
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Anderson Properties recently announced the acquisition of Tulsa-based Prudential Alliance Realty, an eight-office, 150-agent brokerage operating in Tulsa and Oklahoma City and Edmond.
The transaction gives Anderson Properties, a full-service real estate agency a total of 38 offices and more than 600 agents.
Logan County pays off jail tax early, seeks new one
Logan County is paying off a sales tax ahead of schedule and needs a new one to be able to afford funding jail operation and maintenance, officials said.
Citizens vote on the county sales tax which is split for redistribution by state law. The tax is collected by the Oklahoma Tax Commission and redistributed back to the county as specified by voters.
In 2005, citizens passed a 10-year sales tax, scheduled to end next month, to fund the building, operation and maintenance of the county jail, which operates on a $1.3 million budget. Jail capacity is 188 without anyone in a holding cell or a temporary bunk. Thursday it was holding 130 inmates, said Logan County Chief Deputy Richard Stephens.
Edmond School District’s change orders anticipated
When building new schools and classrooms there may be additional costs, but when renovating older buildings those costs can more than double, according to a Edmond School District official.
“When remodeling, you have unknown and hidden costs and you need to include in your budgeted funds for the built-in items you can not see,” said Bret Towne, Edmond’s associate superintendent of general administration.
Planning Commission approves rezoning
The Edmond Planning Commission this week voted 4-0 in favor of rezoning from a single family district. Peter and Kimberly Roberts made the request to allow a planned unit development on the southeast corner of Jackson and Lincoln Avenue, said Bob Schiermeyer, city planner.
“They would like to have D-2 family (neighborhood commercial) zoning for duplexes, 14,000 square feet,” Schiermeyer said. “They can put four units on the property.”
A Q&A on ‘Obamacare’ Court Rulings
On Tuesday, two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of tax subsidies being provided to people who bought “Obamacare” health insurance policies in Oklahoma and 35 other states.
Here’s a look at the rulings’ potential impact in Oklahoma.
Q: I’m confused. What did the courts rule today?
A: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Washington, D.C., decided that the government can’t provide tax subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans purchased in 36 states where the federal government is operating the health insurance exchange. Oklahoma is one of the 36 states. A few hours later, the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Richmond, Va., issued a conflicting ruling that upheld the legality of the health-care law’s tax subsidies.
June healthy month for Oklahoma jobs
Nearly 10,000 new jobs in Oklahoma were created in June, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday the state experienced one of the largest increases in employment in the nation in June. More than 9,600 additional people joined the state’s workforce in June.
The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, its lowest ratio in six years. June’s rate was down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May and April, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.
University of Central Oklahoma recognized as having friendly work environment
The Chronicle of Higher Education named the University of Central Oklahoma as one of the “2014 Great Colleges to Work For.” Central is the only higher education institution in the state recognized on the list and one of only a handful of institutions in the nation given the distinction of being named to the Honor Roll for being cited most often among all the recognition categories.
Central joins Duke, Baylor and Notre Dame on the list of the 10 universities named to the large institution honor roll.
Council approves funds toward ADA update
City Council members have approved a $398,800 professional services contract with Accessology, a McKinney, Texas, firm, to establish an Americans With Disabilities Act transition plan for the city.
Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to make their programs and services accessible to persons with disabilities. It includes access to government facilities, programs and events and relevant policy changes.
Accessology was selected out of a pool of five finalists by a five-member committee to create Edmond’s plan. The firm will partner with Kimley-Horn and Associates, a design consulting firm located in North Carolina.
Edmond’s last ADA transition plan was created in 1992.
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