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Ivan trains hospital staff how to handle Jeanne

(ran South edition)

Before Hurricane Jeanne crashed ashore and whirled across Pasco County, before the lights went out, nurses and technicians from Pasco Regional Medical Center were already getting a sneak peek at hurricane destruction.

For the Dade City hospital crew that pitched in during recovery from Hurricane Ivan near Pensacola, it was a glimpse of disaster they said they will never forget.

"I just felt so grateful that I didn't have damage, I didn't get hit by Charley, I didn't get hit by Frances I just had to do something," said respiratory therapist Diane Jones, 42.

Like the seven other Pasco Regional employees who volunteered for storm duty after Ivan left a path of destruction in the Panhandle earlier this month, Jones said she felt a duty to help the team at Santa Rosa Medical Center in Milton, a suburb of Pensacola.

"My boss asked, "Who wants to go?' " medical technician Cathy Burcar said. "I looked at Wanda and said, "If you go, I'll go.' "

Burcar, 52, and co-worker Wanda Stinyard, 43, had four hours to get ready Sept. 17. At 2 a.m. Sept. 18, they rolled into a new world.

Everything was dark. The roads were bare except for convoys of police and National Guard vehicles.

"It was like, "Oh my gosh. What have we gotten into?' " Burcar said.

As far as they could see, only the hospital _ a sister facility owned by Pasco Regional parent Health Management Associates _ had power, thanks to generators.

"It was the only place with lights," nurse Eileen Williams said. "It was like a beacon."

The group said HMA was among the first to respond to the storm, sending generators to nearby cities to run the municipal water supplies even before federal officials could get to the scene.

Burcar said she ventured into the lab at first light to find crews that had been on duty for 48 hours.

"It was this expression on their faces when I said, "We're here to help,' " Burcar said. "They just burst into tears."

For three days, the Pasco Regional team slept on mattresses pulled into a makeshift shelter in a part of the hospital that was under construction. They ate food cooked by chefs sent from a Georgia hospital. They took cold showers when they could. They worked 12-hour shifts, tending a variety of storm-related emergencies, from bee stings to chain-saw wounds to heart attacks.

And they met volunteers from around the country: police from Houston; tree trimmers from South Dakota; and nurses from all across Florida.

They came home, armed with new experiences to share with the co-workers who covered their shifts in Dade City, experiences that they said came in handy during Hurricane Jeanne.

Pasco Regional chief Michael Arno said the work the four did in Pensacola _ along with fellow hospital employees Jackie Jacobs, Lee Ann Owen, Janice Savage and James Stout _ made him proud.