UNC doctor gives back despite losing family home in deadly Kentucky flooding

Samantha Kummerer Image
BySamantha Kummerer WTVD logo
Thursday, August 4, 2022
UNC doctors team up to assist Kentucky flood victims
Doctor Randi Barnett said this past week her heart and mind has been on Kentucky that didn't stop her from helping the region that raised her.

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- As deadly flood waters in Kentucky continue to wreck communities, the devastation hits home for people in the Triangle.

This includes two UNC doctors who decided to work together to deliver relief despite being miles away.

Helpless is how Doctor Randi Barnett described watching the scenes of flooding unfold in her hometown. She works at UNC Health but this past week her heart and mind has been on Kentucky especially in moments where she couldn't contact her family.

"This was just absolutely devastating. We've never had an event like this. And we've just weren't prepared at all for something like this to happen," Barnett said.

Her family home was torn apart by flood waters, her parents had to be rescued by boats and all she could do was watch and hope.

"I just start seeing like devastating photos and posts about people begging to be rescued, she remembered. "I immediately was just so taken aback by that I was so worried about my family and everyone back there and unfortunately I just I couldn't reach anyone."

At least 37 people have been killed and 1,300 rescued in Kentucky due to recent flooding.

"That whole region raised me, and so all I wanted to do is get back and be able to help them in some way," she said.

She eventually got word that her family had made it on rescue boats and got to safety. Still, the need to be there didn't diminish.

"They were all telling me there was no physical way for me to get there. You know, all the roads have either been flooded or blocked off and were only for emergency transport vehicles only. And it was just it was awful," Barnett said.

Barnett said during one shift, Dr. Phillip Sholes approached her with an idea to help. In addition to working as an anesthesiologist at UNC, Sholes is a licensed pilot and served in the Navy.

"I said, well, my next day off is Tuesday. And I just decided that I was going to take a plane there and we're going to take supplies there," he said.

In just a day, Barnett and Sholes gathered donations of supplies for flood victims.

"We had water. We had clothes, shoes, cleaning products, and personal hygiene. products, we had blankets, pillows, you know, you name it, we had it," Barnett said.

The supplies added up to around 350 pounds worth.

"I'm just I'm so grateful for everybody that came together in this effort. I mean, none of this would have happened without Philip. I mean, he's like the true hero here," she said.

The duo flew to Kentucky on Tuesday to deliver supplies to the impacted area.

"That was awesome and being able to just like, physically lay my eyes on my family and hug them and know that they were safe. I mean, that meant the world to me. So I really appreciate everybody involved in this," Barnett said.

Barnett is planning on going back with more supplies in the coming weeks, but she also says anyone can help.

She's encouraging people to donate to the Eastern Kentucky Relief Fund.