Carla SpaldingWhen the news broke that a condominium in Surfside, Fla., in the Miami Beach area had suddenly and tragically collapsed, it took Carla Spalding, a registered nurse with long term care provider Infinity Health Care Management, only minutes to be on the move.

“It was early in the morning, and I was watching the TV, and the breaking news bulletin came across the screen,” she says. “I saw what happened in Surfside, which is only 10 to 15 minutes away from where I live, and I immediately got dressed and went there. I could not just do nothing.”

When she arrived, Spalding did not get immediate access to the area, but eventually parked and walked to draw closer to the partially collapsed building site to see if she could render assistance, which is something Spalding is well accustomed to doing from her years in the U.S. Navy and now as a nurse.

“I told the person in charge from the police department that I am a nurse, and he directed me to where the EMTs were. There were no nurses there on the day of the event, so I was the only nurse present, and there was also one doctor,” she says.

People around the building were frantic, given the sudden building collapse, asking anyone and everyone what was happening. Spalding says the anxiety and grief were palpable.

Some had just broken down completely. People wanted to know what had happened to their loved ones,” she says.

To her, Spalding says, the only way to relate to what it looked and felt like around the collapse site was September 11 and what the rubble looked like there when she saw that tragedy unfold on TV so many years ago.

“It was the only thing to compare it with … there was rubble and smoke coming up from it.”
Since there was no way to access the site itself, her main nursing duties played into her specialty, which is psychological care.

“The biggest thing I saw there was fear, the fear of the unknown regarding the loved ones. I helped one woman who had her only child in the building. I worked to help calm them down. My work in the Navy and Infinity helped prepare me for this event. It is about calming people down but also about listening to what they have to say,” Spalding says.

Her efforts at Surfside have lasted more than just the one day, as she had the permission and support of her work, namely from Michael Blisko, chief executive officer of Infinity Health Care Management, to do what she needed to do in her effort to aid people suffering from the tragedy.

“I had to do whatever was needed to help,” Spalding says.  “I think it is just part of who we are as people working in the medical field as medical nurses. It is a calling I believe. I just personally don’t want to see people hurt,” she says, her voice breaking at the thought of what has happened in Surfside.

And, of course, being a comfort in challenging times is what being a long term care nurse is all about on a daily basis, through the pandemic and before that through hurricanes in Florida, Spalding says.

“Our last big hurricane, I stayed in the nursing home for five days straight to help care for our residents. What people don’t always get about what we do is that we often are many residents’ family, they don’t have anyone to take care of them. We are their loved ones, and they rely on us for anything and everything.”

And, for this week at least and maybe longer, Spalding is a life saver for residents of Surfside, who will be in search of loved ones as well.