‘A Team Effort’: UKPT Family Bands Together to Help Flood Victims

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

These days, when Andrew Branham gets off work at the East Kentucky Physical Therapy & Sports Clinic, he changes out of his professional clothes and puts on an old T-shirt, shorts and boots. Gloves are a good idea, too. And he reminds himself to bring along the shovels and the cleaning supplies.

Only then is he ready for his second job of the day: Helping his community recover from a massive flood.

Branham, a 2018 UK Physical Therapy graduate, lives in Hindman, Ky., in Knott County, located in the eastern part of the state.

In late July, severe flooding swept away much of the downtown area, resulting in 37 deaths across the region and leaving thousands without homes. Those who survived are still struggling, as some have been left with no electricity or water. Residents like Branham are now cleaning up the mess and coping with the tragedy, as he personally hopes to rebuild the town he’s lived in since he was a child. Each day after work he volunteers, helping to tear out more wet carpet or drywall before the mold sets in.  

One ray of light — for Branham at least — has been the support he’s received from his PT family at UK. While Branham has been coordinating efforts to help the clean-up in Hindman, former professors, advisors and classmates at UK have delivered food, water and supplies to him and others all across the eastern Kentucky counties that were hit hardest by the storms.

One hub has been established at UK’s Hazard campus, just 20 miles down the road from Hindman. That was the campus where Branham attended PT school, and he said he’s not surprised by the way those in the department have reached out to help.

“Not surprising at all,” says Branham, who said his own house was spared because he lives high on a hill. “I went to school with them, knew all of them and knew what kinds of people they were. So, no, it’s not surprising — but it’s much appreciated.”

“It’s an exceptional time, and some exceptional people from a very strong but understated program are involved,” wrote Kara Lee, PT, DPT, NCS and assistant professor in the Physical Therapy department.

From the Lexington campus, Catherine Gohrband, PT, DPT, PCS and a lecturer in the department, has been coordinating efforts, while in Hazard, site director Ramona Carper, PT, DPT, has led the way alongside Angie Phipps, Student Affairs Officer in Hazard’s Center of Excellence in Rural Health.  

“We do this for our community, not for the recognition,” said Nathan Johnson, PT, PhD, DPT, and associate professor in the program. “Our desire to help our community/family comes from our profession. The core values of the American Physical Therapy Association are instilled in all of us.”

Those values include things like: Accountability, Altruism, Compassion, Duty and Social Responsibility.

“Per usual, Angie Phipps has been a pillar of support to students, faculty and the local Hazard community,” Johnson said. “Not sure what we would do without her. As Angie is based at CERH, she maintained an open line of communication with Hazard-based students (and PT faculty). This is nothing new for Angie — she’s just had to juggle a bit more with the natural disaster. The result has been the same: The students feel supported, always knowing they have someone to reach out to in a time of need.”

He called Carper a “virtual field commander.”

“(She) jumped right in with organizing and disseminating donations,” he said. “This was manifested by her weekend emails aimed at mobilizing efforts to collect and deliver provisions. She gathered reconnaissance and maneuvered to support those in need.”

Johnson said Gohrband activated her “Mom Mode.”

“We’re all familiar with Beast Mode, but Catherine’s Mom Mode was on full display,” he said. “Catherine not only collected donations, but she also donated food, cleaning supplies, first aid needs, and her time. She’s made multiple trips to Hazard with a car full of food, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, and first aid kits. But wait, there's more — Like a mom, Catherine was also reaching out to Lexington and Hazard students to provide assistance with any need, whether that be housing, a listening ear, or an encouraging conversation.”

She also delivered provisions to Branham’s clinic.  

“As this impacts our entire PT family, whether located in Hazard or Lexington, faculty, staff and students have worked together to support those with the greatest need,” Johnson said. “It truly has been a team effort.”

Perhaps a better description is a “family” effort. For a cleanup that is expected to take years, Branham said it will only work with the help from organizations like the UK PT group.

“Everybody really has come together to help, volunteering, donating stuff,” he says. Like his own PT family, the residents in the area have a reputation for helping out one another in times of need. Branham himself came back to Hindman after graduation to work at the clinic and serve the people there.

Branham said these items are now needed most:

  • dehumidifiers
  • fans
  • shovels 
  • loaves of bread
  • peanut butter and jelly
  • canned food with pull tabs
  • Clorox
  • mops
  • brooms
  • gloves
  • dish soap
  • plastic tote tubs
  • tarps
  • bug spray 

He said anyone can make a donation to his clinic at 70 Holly Hills Mall Road in Hindman, zip code 41822.

Still other locations have been set up at the many churches in the area, including, among others:

  • Hindman First Baptist Church
  • Montgomery Baptist Church
  • Hindman Methodist Church

“We need volunteers to help clean up,” Branham says. “But that’s the good thing about being around here — everybody tries to help everybody.”