By STEVEN NALLEY
Beverly Hammett heard the ambulances all night long.
Hammett, a resident of Starkville, was staying at the University of Alabama in Birmingham’s TownHouse, a low-cost lodging facility for hospital patients and their families, during the April 27 tornado. Hammett said she had been out of the hospital two days after a kidney transplant when the tornadoes came and filled the night with the sound of sirens. The next morning, she said, she talked to the post-transplant coordinator at UAB, saying she wanted to do something to help but did not know what needed to be done.
“Basically, she said there were so many that were coming in that they weren’t able to accommodate them all in the emergency room,” Hammett said. “They had to open up another part of the hospital and turn it into a triage unit.”
The worst she said she heard, however, was that more than 125 children affected by the tornado were hospitalized at UAB. That’s when Hammett decided to start collecting teddy bears and dolls to donate to these children.
Children came to UAB from as far as 125 miles away, she said, coming from communities hit too hard to provide adequate care.
“Tuscaloosa was taken out; Cullman was taken out; Pratt City was taken out,” Hammett said. “There were 42 counties in Alabama that were declared disaster areas.”
Hammett said children came to UAB with head trauma, multiple fractures and pieces of glass, metal, wood and other storm debris embedded in their backs, among other injuries. Not all of the children’s wounds were physical, she said.
“Some of them had lost their parents, their grandparents or siblings,” Hammett said. “Some of them were just in severe shock from the events that had transpired.”
Hammett said she wanted to give the children teddy bears and dolls because they might help restore the children’s sense of security. They give children something to hold on to, she said, and children can take them anywhere.
“Teddy bears and dolls are comforting to children,” Hammett said. “I can’t change what’s happened. I can’t even make their world better, but what I can do is give them some part of normalcy that will give them security and comfort.”
Hammett said she has already contacted Adaton Baptist Church and Meadowview Baptist Church about gathering teddy bears and dolls, but she has not set a firm time or date for either of them to gather the dolls yet. She said people can also drop the items off at City Alignment, where her husband Donnie Hammett works, and he will bring them home to her.
However, Hammett said she’s found most of her donors so far through one-to-one phone contact. She can be reached at 662-323-6229, and she said she will deliver the items to the children monthly starting June 21, in accordance with her checkups.
“I’ve been trying to get the word out individually,” Hammett said. “I’ve got several items that people have brought me, and there are some people who have called me and told me they want to give me something.”