Editor's Note: The interview, meeting and photo taken with President Obama took place at City Hall in Vilonia. President Obama's itinerary did not include the city of Conway.
When President Barack Obama walked up to Amanda Irby, Emergency Department Director for Conway Regional Medical Center, he started thanking her for the hospital’s life-saving efforts before she had the chance to introduce herself.
Irby was among the group of first responders selected to meet with Obama during his visit to the state after an E4 tornado tore through Faulkner County on April 27, initially killing 11 people and an unborn infant a week later.
“When it was my turn he saw my name badge and recognized Conway Regional,” Irby said. “He thanked and applauded us on our efforts that Sunday night.”
On April 27, Conway Regional Medical Center had about 100 patients come to the Emergency Room in a matter of hours, Irby said. More than half were critically injured, she said.
“Our initial plan was to have our main ER designated for critical patients and the outpatient interventional area used for severally injured but not critical and more stable patients,” Irby said.
After the first group of patients came to the hospital, Irby quickly realized a third area was needed, she said, so the short stay/outpatient unit was turned into an area for stable patients.
“We essentially had 3 ERs going at the same time to get everyone treated,” Irby said.
The hospital admitted nine patients, two of whom went straight to emergency surgery, and one patient was admitted to critical care. Ten patients were transferred to Little Rock hospitals, four of which were children.
Obama thanked the hospital staff for their dedication to the profession, and for helping storm survivors and their families, Irby said.
Irby said the ER staff could not have done what they did that night without the help of the entire hospital.
During a disaster, Irby said, the emergency department initiates its disaster plan, calling every staff member in to the ER.
There are approximately 75 members on the ER staff, including 10 physicians, Irby said, but that night, staff members from across the hospital came to the ER’s aid including labor and delivery nurses, surgeons, lab technicians and respiratory therapists.
“The recognition for the staff and the families and the appreciation for the work that’s been done is greatly appreciated,” Irby said. “To have everyone’s efforts applauded, and the outpouring of support — it’s been unbelievable.”
Sen. Mark Pryor’s office coordinated Irby’s meeting with Obama in order for Conway Regional to have representation among first responders who were recognized Wednesday.
Irby’s 14-year-old son Logan Lamp, an eighth grader at Vilonia Junior High, asked his mom if she could get a selfie with Obama if she got the chance during his meeting with first responders.
When all interviews were finished, and the group picture had been taken, Irby asked a favor of the President.
“I said, ‘I have a 14-year-old at the school where you landed who wants me to get a selfie with you.”
By the look on Obama’s face, he must have been more than happy to accommodate Irby’s request.