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New ICU & ER director at DHM worked during Minot flooding
Hani Ayyad is the new emergency room and intensive care unit director for Doctors Hospital of Manteca. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Hani Ayyad, RN, has brought the sum total of his expertise in critical care to the emergency room (ER) and intensive care unit (ICU) at Doctors Hospital of Manteca coming from a hospital in Minot, North Dakota.

It was in the spring of last year when Ayyad found himself in the center of a historical flood with 85 inches of rain and snow that tested the emergency capabilities of that community of 36,000 residents plus an Air Force base with another 10,000 people.

There were some 2,400 homes flooded and 12,000 people were forced out of their homes with one third of the city under water.

Less than 200 residents made use of homeless shelters because home owners reacted quickly to a campaign “Open Your Heart, Open Your Home.” The people of the community took the homeless in and put their furniture in their garages throughout the city, Ayyad said.

He remembered that everywhere the streets were drivable, open garages would reveal the furniture taken from flooded homes. There was not one single fatality or anyone seen on a roof top waving a white flag asking for help.

Charged with the responsibility of the air ambulance at his hospital, Ayyad said he and the staff worked with the National Guard, the Air Force base, FEMA and local agencies keeping the hospital open and transferring some 220 nursing home residents. Meeting with the Air Force staff, the hospital was ready to set up a field hospital at a moment’s notice which wasn’t necessary.

Emergency room set up at school

The city of Minot geographically is made up of two hills separated by a valley – the north hill and the south hill. When the rains began to flood the valley totaling more than seven feet of rain and snow, it was expected the hill areas would be isolated from the community as a whole – and they were from many residents.

“Before it was lost, we set up an emergency room inside a gym at one of the elementary school (on one of the hills) where we saw 500 patients there over 31 days. Otherwise it would have taken (patients) over five hours to drive around a detour of the flooded areas,” Ayyad said.

He noted that he had learned a great deal about emergency management and resources and how to work with the National Guard and with the Air Force base through that experience.

Speaking about his new assignment in Manteca, he said, “The biggest opportunity in ICU is that you are able to meet the needs of our patients in the community in one of the most vulnerable times of their lives and still provide them with excellent care with dignity,” Ayyad said.

He added that the stories staff members hear back from patients are of utmost importance when they say “thank you for saving my life” and are the most gratifying, especially for the nurses and physicians that see someone in a very dire need clinging to their lives – and they have been able to save them.

Ayyad said he will long remember having a conversation with his dad about becoming a heart surgeon – a dream that never materialized. He said he first worked at an occupational clinic serving among physicians’ assistants and nurses.

Glad he got accepted into nursing school

The new leader of ICU at Doctors Hospital remembers applying to both nursing schools and medical schools driven by those early experiences.

“I got accepted into nursing first and I’m glad I did,” he said.

Ayyad was one of 10 children growing up in Jordan where his parents were mentoring their son together in their tight-knit family. Dad was a banker of 35 years before he retired to start his own car rental business.

“I think my mom kicked him out of the house and said, ‘Here find something to do,’ which has probably increased his life span by his staying busy.”

He said his dad was strict with him but his mother was soft – always offering him shelter. “I guess I took from both of them, but it’s the soft part that gets things done,” Ayyad said.

“People here say I have the soft part. They don’t like to see the tough part,” he quipped.

Ayyad noted that his true mentor in life was a college professor he had studied under in Egypt, Dr. Abdulmumin Skakir who was in his 80s at the time. The man had two PhD degrees and two master’s degrees to his credit and also had worked for the United Nations.

Shakir was a professor in Detroit, Michigan, and taught that the important lessons in life such as the importance of being a true friend is always telling someone the truth and not just something they want to hear.

“Perfection is not an option, it’s a must,” he had always stressed. “To be successful in life you have to be relentless in the pursuit of perfection. Never settle for less,” was also among his directives to his students including Ayyad.

Ayyad said the man he remembers as his mentor had him doing projects for him while he was in school, often typing manuscripts or putting a project together.

“We would have to edit copy 50 times. I didn’t have a personal computer so it was off to the library that was open 24 hours in downtown Detroit – sitting there all night editing the documents he wanted typed sometimes until 2 a.m. in the morning,” he recalled.

Ayyad and his wife Fareedah have four children: daughter Aala, 11, a fifth grader; son Mustafa, 8, in the third grade; Lucy, 6, a first grader and daughter Hala, 2 ½ .