Left to right: HBJ Market President and Publisher Bob Charlet, Clear Lake Regional Medical Center Pediatric Surgeon Dr. Stephen Kimmel, HBJ Editor-in-chief Giselle Greenwood, and HCA Healthcare’s Gulf Coast Division Chief Nurse Executive Kelli Nations.

Kelli Nations, chief nurse executive for HCA Healthcare’s Gulf Coast Division, and Stephen Kimmel, M.D., pediatric surgeon at HCA-affiliated Clear Lake Regional Medical Center, were both recognized as Houston Business Journal 2018 Healthcare Heroes at a breakfast this morning held by the business publication.

Nations began her career at HCA almost 20 years ago as a staff nurse in the medical Intensive Care Unit at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center. Because of her natural leadership abilities, she soon climbed the ranks, first as a charge nurse, then working in nursing education and quality, and finally serving as chief nursing officer at several Gulf Coast Division-affiliated facilities. In 2016, she achieved her dream of being named the division’s chief nurse executive, a position in which she has been singularly successful.

She has recruited more than 1,500 additional highly qualified, well-educated, skilled nurses in the last year to the Gulf Coast Division in order to meet the needs of patients. This, despite a highly competitive environment in which nurses of this caliber are among the most sought-after professionals anywhere.

“Kelli has masterfully created an atmosphere in which nurses are highly respected as integral components of the health care team, skilled professionals who have a voice and who are always willing to let it be heard for the benefit of their patients,” said Troy Villarreal, president of HCA Healthcare’s Gulf Coast Division. “Kelli knows that nurses are the backbone of modern health care. Without them, a hospital cannot function. Her ability to attract and keep high-quality nurses to the Gulf Coast Division is invaluable. Without Kelli, the HCA Healthcare’s Gulf Coast Division would not be where it is today – the largest health care provider in Houston.”

Dr. Stephen Kimmel’s award comes after demonstrating amazing bravery and dedication during one of the most devastating events in Houston’s history. On Aug. 26, 2017, Hurricane Harvey began its devastation of the region. At 10 p.m., Kimmel’s phone rang at home in Dickinson. A child had suffered an injury, and there was a six-hour time window in which it could be fixed before permanent damage occurred. No other surgeons were available. Could Kimmel get from his house to Clear Lake Regional Medical Center to conduct the surgery? Kimmel didn’t even think about it. He set out for the hospital immediately.

It was pouring down rain and the weather forecasts were terrifying, but Kimmel got in his car and started out. He hadn’t gotten far when he was confronted with a huge lake of water where none had been the day before. He returned to his house, and called the hospital's chief medical officer, who in turn called the Dickinson volunteer fire department. Around 1:30 a.m., two soaking wet firefighters arrived at Kimmel’s door -- without a truck. The three of them ran through the rising water before being picked up by a fire station truck equipped with a canoe.

They set off again, driving as far as they could before the road became impassable. They took the truck’s canoe and started paddling. Before long, the firefighters spotted people stranded on the top of half-submerged cars. Kimmel gave them the boat to begin rescuing people, and he set out in the blinding rain, sloshing through the floodwaters on foot before finally reaching the hospital at 2:30 in the morning. He had an hour left to repair the child’s injury before it became a permanent defect. The surgery was successful.

“That’s not the end of the story, though,” said Villarreal. “A few hours later, Stephen called his wife to check on her and the kids. There was five feet of water in their house. Stephen called the U.S. Coast Guard, who sent a boat to rescue his family and bring them to the hospital. They all slept on the floor of his office that night. Stephen’s amazing courage and dedication is an example to all of us, and he epitomizes HCA’s mission – above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.”

About HCA Healthcare’s Gulf Coast Division

HCA Healthcare’s Gulf Coast Division is a comprehensive network of hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, emergency centers and diagnostic imaging facilities in greater Houston, Corpus Christi and South Texas.  Facilities in the Gulf Coast Division include:  17 hospitals, nine ambulatory care centers, off-campus emergency centers, and a regional transfer center that provides one phone call access and support for patient transfers into and out of the HCA Gulf Coast Division Affiliated Hospitals as well as access to ground and air transportation within a 150- mile radius.  For more information, visit www.HCAGulfCoast.com.