Hospital Staffer Swims to Work in Sandy Floodwaters

Marsha Hedgepeth dove into the waters in front of her house in Toms River, N.J. and set out for work

An emergency room technician was so determined to make her shift the day after Sandy hit that she swam part of the way there through the floodwaters.

"Can't isn't in my vocabulary, so I knew I was going to make it," said Marsha Hedgepeth of Toms River, N.J.

Hedgepeth knew she had to make her 3 p.m. shift at Community Medical Center the day after Sandy.

But when she looked outside, her neighborhood was dark and flooded. The Barnegat Bay had poured 10-foot waves on to her street overnight, and the streetlights were out. 

The longtime surfer waited until sunrise and set off with a plan. 

"I dove into water, and I couldn't see the steps I was walking down because they were covered in water," she said. "So I said the easiest way to get there is just swim until I reach the ground."

Dressed in jeans and sneakers, Hedgepeth bundled up in a scarf, hat and mittens, and swam about 200 yards, navigating through the debris and carrying her scrubs in a grocery bag.

When she finally made it to the highway, she hitched a ride with some utility workers and arrived to work six hours before her shift.

Hospital administrators say it's a testament to Hedgepeth's hard work and resilience.

"To suffer such a tragedy and have to endure the extreme weather we had experienced on the Jersey Shore that day -- we can't say enough of how proud we are of her and that she is safe," said Teri Kubiel, administrative director at Community Medical Center. 

Hedgepeth said she knew she was needed, although next time she would rethink her travel plans.

"It wasn't the safest thing I've ever done in my life," she said. " In hindsight, would I do it again? No. Would I always make it to the hospital to do my shift? Absolutely."

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