When UMMC Medical ICU nurse Matt Harris came up on a throng of motorists stranded on ice coating the Lakeland Drive exit ramp off I-55 South, the cold dug through his blue scrubs as he got out of his truck and assessed the mess.
He pulled a tow strap out of his diesel Ford F250. “I’d had it for a year and had never gotten to use it,” said Harris, a graduate of Quitman High School. “I thought, ‘Today’s the day!’”
It was about 6:45 Wednesday morning.
Harris soon spotted Tony Sistrunk, his former MICU coworker who recently returned to school to become a nurse anesthetist. Together, the two spent the next hour-plus hooking up cars scattered from the bottom of the exit to its intersection with Lakeland, pulling them to the center of the road and then to the top of the hill.
“On the top of the hill to the right, where you would turn to go to the Medical Center, it was caked up pretty good,” he said.
He and Sistrunk had to lie on their backs to hook the tow straps to car after car.
John Jones, the MICU night shift charge nurse, agreed to stay on so that Harris could rescue driver after driver, many of them nurses. Harris estimates that by the time he left, shortly after 8 a.m., he and Sistrunk had pulled about 100 cars. “They just kept coming,” he said.
“I felt like I was mud-riding back in the day with my brother and his friends, and having to pull people out of the mud. It was fun this morning, too.”
“It’s not surprising, knowing these guys and the people in my ICU, that they would cover for each other to help the common good,” said Dr. Andy Wilhelm, the MICU’s medical director. “Those are the characteristics they’ve always demonstrated and lived by in the ICU.”