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Associates Deliver Cancer Drugs – and Hope – After Hurricane Harvey

2017-09-14

ION Solutions’ Lori Pace and Oncology Supply’s Brandon Osborn exhibited resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, determined to deliver cancer drugs to practices affected by the storm. The two split up the drug inventory and navigated water-filled Houston streets in the hopes of making successful deliveries. In the end, Lori and Brandon drove hundreds of miles and went above and beyond to serve oncology patients.

Preparing for the Storm

As soon as predictions of an epic storm for the Texas coast hit the airwaves, the Oncology Supply team members in Dothan, AL quietly morphed into survival mode. Fitting for a group who's navigated Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and numerous other natural disasters, the OS team was calculating the path of least resistance into the eye of the storm, all while government officials were announcing evacuation routes away from what would soon be known as Hurricane Harvey.   



Shown above is ION's Lori Pace (in tie-dye) making a drug delivery after Hurricane Harvey.


Meanwhile, in Madison, MS, Brandon Osborn, Senior Account Manager for Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas and the OS sales rep who has assisted hundreds of customers along the Gulf Coast for 15-plus years, began orchestrating a plan with his ION counterpart in Texas, Lori Pace, and the OS customer service team back in Dothan. After repeated conversations with both Fed Ex and desperate customers who were being impacted by Harvey, all it took was approval and encouragement to get this show on the road.

Getting the show on the road: Dothan to Houston

Before leaving Mississippi, Brandon rented a new Chevy Tahoe with two miles on the odometer and ample space to store his valuable cargo. Arriving at the OS distribution center at 11:30 on the night of Wednesday, Aug. 30, Brandon met Tim Koogler, Director of the Oncology Supply distribution center. Together, they packed the SUV with the life-saving drugs for cancer patients who were stranded in the wake of what would be the one of the worst storms in Texas history.


Tim, another OS veteran, squeezed the last box into the remaining free space of the Tahoe and slammed the door before anything could fall out. "We felt as if we had just played a long game of car Jenga," said Brandon. The two men hugged and shook hands, and Brandon left Dothan around 12:45 am.  

He headed west just as remnants of Harvey headed east. He didn't know exactly how he'd get there, but he did know that he had only 48 hours to drive 900 miles into a Category 4 storm to deliver life-saving refrigerated drugs.  
 
With I-10 being completely shut down at the Texas border, Brandon had to plot a course through some back roads that eventually allowed him to cross into Texas over an old bridge inches above rising waters close to the town of Jasper. By this time, traffic had begun to increase. Numerous utility trucks and FEMA rescue services were also trying to make their way into Texas. Watching the sun rise in his rearview mirror, he knew this would be the most challenging Thursday of sales calls he'd ever make. However, the calls of support from his "work brothers and sisters" kept Brandon motivated.

Back in Dothan, the OS team was in the office early that Thursday morning helping coordinate deliveries with Brandon, Lori and the affected customers. As the storm stalled over Houston, causing epic flooding to the entire city and surrounding communities, plans changed every time a road closure was announced — which was every few minutes — complicating the most elementary components of the process: GPS.

Splitting deliveries to make up lost time

Despite numerous road closures and unpredictable cell service, Lori met up with Brandon in Huntsville, Texas. They split some of the inventory to try and overcome the distance between the clinics in the time they had left to make their deliveries. They wished each other good luck and quickly headed their separate ways.

Patience and cell service became critical to making any successful drops at clinics in and around the flooded metropolis of Houston. Finding an open road in a water-filled, deserted city street became the greatest obstacle for Brandon and Lori. Epic flooding had caused both sides of Houston's  I-10 interstates to be shut down. "This became a real challenge, considering detours had limited entry available only from the north, which meant significantly more drive time to the area," said Brandon. The result was that Thursday's deliveries would have to be made after 5:00 pm.   

Hours later, Brandon was able to make his first successful delivery to an office full of stranded but extremely grateful employees and patients. Witnessing their gratitude, Brandon was even more determined to leave Texas with an empty truck.  

Along with vital assistance from the team back in Dothan, Brandon made deliveries to most of the affected clinics throughout the day on Thursday. His last stop for the day, at 11:30 that night, was an emotional one. Overwhelmed from both exhaustion and exhilaration, they all hugged and cried, realizing that this was no ordinary work day.

Early the next morning, while charting out his map for the day, Brandon received a call from Edward, the pharmacist at one of his Houston clinics that was on his delivery list for the day, asking Brandon to come to the office right then. Brandon was escorted to the conference room, where he was met by the board members of the practice. With tears in his eyes, the COO, on behalf of the board and staff, thanked Brandon for his commitment to him and his practice, but mostly to their patients. The administrator talked of how patients from a nearby large regional hospital, who were turned away, had been sent to their practice for 2nd and 3rd line treatments and were now able to be treated simply because of the efforts made on their behalf by Brandon, Lori and the OS team.


 "Our customers are to be congratulated as much as every one of our brothers and sisters at ION and Oncology Supply for this victory in the name of serving community oncology," said Brandon and Lori. "This was a cohesive, unified team performance from start to finish.”

On Monday, September 25, Lori received a commendation from United States Representative Martha Roby for her generosity and compassion to Hurricane Harvey victims.


By the time Brandon returned his gently used Chevy Tahoe at the Dallas airport, the odometer read 1,544 miles.



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