This summer, a mere month after returning to her hometown of Hazard, Ky., for her first year of residency, Danielle Bocook, MD, saw it destroyed by eastern Kentucky’s worst flooding in more than 60 years.

In late July, flash floods devastated eastern Kentucky communities, including Perry County where Dr. Bocook grew up, where her family still lives, and where she is training in the UK College of Medicine’s family medicine residency program.

As a doctor with strong connections to the region, Dr. Bocook immediately felt a pull to help. For the past few weeks, she and fellow UK College of Medicine residents, health care specialists, and local emergency responders have traveled across the region to assist “anyone and everyone” they can.

Dr. Bocook said one can’t truly comprehend the devastation without being onsite. The team has seen homes leveled to where only the roofs are visible. Living room floors are covered in sopping, wet mud. Vehicles and outdoor pergolas are flipped on their sides. Major roadways are split in half, and the smell of sewage lingers in the air.

“You see people standing outside their destroyed homes next to their precious belongings – furniture, appliances, antiques passed down for generations – stacked outside in piles,” Dr. Bocook said. “But they don’t want to leave. This is all they have.”

As of Aug. 29, at least 39 have died. And those who remain are facing the aftermath – infections from dirty water rushing through their home, injuries from shattered glass and debris, malnutrition, and dehydration. Those in wheelchairs face limited mobility across the wet, rough terrain. Not to mention, the loss of electricity impacting important health care items such as oxygen machines, as well as the loss of medications, health care identification, and important paperwork.

The wreckage has prevented many citizens from reaching hospitals, so UK residents and volunteers have brought the health care to them. With four-wheelers and trucks packed with supplies, they have traveled across the region to address immediate medical concerns, treat wounds, administer tetanus and hepatitis A vaccines, and deliver necessities such as nonperishable food and bottled water.

Dr. Bocook has been joined by fellow residents including third-year resident Victoria Williams, MD, and second-year residents Molly LaPorte, MD, and Mahsa Shahrokhi, MD.

The work to rebuild and provide vital health care services has been a collaborative effort across the community. As Dr. Bocook puts it, “county lines are invisible,” and all those who are able have been more than willing to join in.

  • UK North Fork Valley Clinic in Hazard has absorbed providers and staff from its sister clinic in Knott County, June Buchanan Clinic, which was affected by the flooding.
  • UK HealthCare, Appalachian Regional Hospital, and other regional health care teams have provided supplies, medications, and volunteers.
  • A group called the Modern Day Mary Breckinridges (also known as the “Redneck Cross” in their Facebook message thread) have been on the ground reaching families in need of assistance.
  • Local pharmacies have contributed vaccines, over-the-counter medications, and more, and many have delivered them directly to homes.
  • City and county officials have provided hubs for response teams. The City of Hazard also provided access to donated items, water, cleaning supplies, and baby formula.  
  • The Hazard police and fire departments, as well as Letcher County Magistrates, have helped escort volunteers to affected areas. Police and fire department transportation were arranged by Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini and his daughter, Madison Mobelini Patrick.
  • The Hazard school system has offered cafeteria space to house supplies.

Though the rushing water has ceased, Dr. Bocook said the impact will be felt for years. However, the assistance from the community and surrounding residents has kept the faith alive.

“We’re all Kentuckians. We are all Appalachians. We’re all mountain people,” Dr. Bocook said. “We’re not only giving them water, supplies, vaccines. We’re giving them hope. Hope that they are not alone. Hope that they are not forgotten.”

How to Help Flood Relief

Click here for a list of donation items and ways you can give.

Read more about UK and UK HealthCare’s flood relief efforts below: