Tim and Donna Fraley spent both Tim’s birthday and their wedding anniversary helping flood victims in Houston after Hurricane Harvey roared through the city this summer. Tim, a registered nurse at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, calls the sacrifices he and his wife, Donna, made “small potatoes.”

The Mocksville, North Carolina couple spent Aug. 24 through Sept. 7 at the George R. Brown Convention Center providing care for those who needed medical attention. The facility was converted into a shelter after flooding paralyzed much of the city. “We saw everything from kidney stones to abrasions to strokes,” Tim said. The Fraleys helped dozens of patients during their deployment in Houston.

Helping others in need comes naturally to Tim and Donna, who both served on North Carolina’s federal disaster medical system team (“NC 1-DMAT”) since it was formed in 1988. They’ve been deployed to natural disaster scenes for nearly 30 years, including hurricanes Matthew and Katrina.

Tim Fraley works in the telemetry ward where he monitors patients in critical care. He treats a wide range of medical problems, from heart attacks to major bacterial infections. “I’m happy to work for an organization that supports this,” he said of his trip to Houston.

Donna Fraley owns a pet grooming business in Clemmons, North Carolina, and is a part-time veterinary technician in Statesville. While in Houston, she served as an administrative assistant, along with helping almost 300 service dogs and pets who needed veterinary attention.  

The disaster team includes physicians, nurses, paramedics, fatality management professionals, veterinary staff, and command and control staff.  “These people become like your family,” Tim said.

Tim said he was surprised at the upbeat attitude of those seeking refuge. “So many people were just thankful to be alive. They weren’t thinking about what they may have lost.”

Regardless of the conditions at the shelter and across Houston, the medical system team worked together to ensure that Tim had a memorable 58th birthday. The team crafted special birthday signs and made balloon hats out of latex surgical gloves. The team also went as far as planning a special meal for the Fraleys on their ninth anniversary.

Tim and Donna met while working on the NC 1-DMAT team in 1988. “We used to ride in the EMS ambulance together and teach together,” he said. They spent their wedding anniversary the same way they met each other, assisting those in need.