Care home staff brave floods to rescue residents

Staff from a care home in St Asaph, North Wales, waded through icy waist-deep water to make sure elderly residents at the The Old Deanery were safe.

The Old Deanery, in St Asaph, was one of 400 properties affected when torrential rain caused the River Elwy, to burst its banks.

Manager, Lisa Bowen is the daughter of Old Deanery owners, Barry and Linda Mahon, who established the home in 1983.

She has worked there since she left school and became manager five years ago.

She said: “My parents and I all live in nearby Rhyl and there was no problem with flooding over there, so the first I knew that things were getting really serious over in St Asaph was when my sister, who lives in the town, rang me about 6am to say the river had come over and that she had been evacuated by the emergency services.

“The river is not far away from the Old Deanery, so my first thought was for the safety of our residents.

“I then called my mum and dad and they have a four-wheel-drive Range Rover, so we all piled in and headed immediately for St Asaph.

“The main roads were closed, so we went round another way to get there.

“When we eventually got to the bottom of the road the home is on, things looked pretty bad. The water was already very deep but I just knew I had to reach the home, so I left my mum and dad with the car while I waded in.

“It was really cold and the water was up to my waist but the adrenalin must have kicked in and I just kept going. Further along the road a firefighter shouted at me to stop because of the danger. But I told him who I was and that I was trying to reach the Old Deanery. He then led me the rest of the way there.”

Ms Bowen’s colleague, Jane Heath Coleman, also battled her way to the Old Deanery from her home in Rhyl.

The road were closed so she had to wade through deeply flooded gardens and eventually borrowed two sets of ladders from home-owners to get over the perimeter wall and into the home.

She said: “I didn’t think about what I was doing at the time. I just knew I had to get to the home to see the residents were alright because I wasn’t sure who else from the staff would manage to get there.”

Ms Bowen added: “Jane got there 10 minutes before me and we saw the water was coming in through every nook and cranny. It wasn’t too deep but it was very worrying.

“I phoned the county council who sent some sandbags and we put them everywhere we could see the water appearing, which stopped it. By then other staff members, some of whom were not even on duty, started to come in, and a couple of them were wearing fishing waders.

“We got all the residents into the lounge, reassured them everything was fine, made sure they were warm and gave them their breakfast. There was no panic at all. By about 8.30am the firemen, who were brilliant, had pumped out all the water and outside it looked like nothing had happened.

“A few of the residents had to temporarily move out of their rooms because some water had got in, and we also had problems with the central heating boiler and the electrics of the lift but everything was soon fixed and we quickly got back to normal. I’ve never seen anything like the flooding before in my life but all the staff were incredible and just pulled together – it was the real Dunkirk spirit – and we are happy that not one drop of flood water reached our residents.”

Another staff member who waded through the filthy flood water was deputy manager Caroline Barker.

Sister of manager Lisa Bowen, she lives in Trelawnydd and has worked at the Old Deanery since she was 17.

After hearing about the flooding in St Asaph she and her husband Paul got into the car and headed for the home.

Mrs Barker said: “We could only get so far because all the roads around it were deep in water.

“We knew we had to go and help so we just got out of the car and both of us waded in. The water went over our knees and the wellies we had on were no good because it was going over the top and inside them.

“We were wading like that for about 20 minutes until we reached the home, trying to use the kerb as a guide but sometimes you couldn’t see it, so it was a bit difficult.

“We couldn’t see where we were walking because the water was brown and muddy, which meant we didn’t know what we were walking on. Luckily, neither of us fell and I remember saying to Paul that the last thing I wanted was to go face-down in that lot.”

She added: “When we eventually got to the home we made sure that all the residents were alright. They had no idea of what was going on so there was no panic.

“It was a terrible experience but we got through it and the main thing is that the residents were all safe.”

There are 21 residents at the home, ranging in age from their seventies to 98.

Mario Kreft, chair of Care Forum Wales, the body that represents the independent care sector, praised the staff and said: “The staff of the Old Deanery certainly went above and beyond the call of duty.

“The response of Lisa and her team during the catastrophic flooding in St Asaph was nothing short of magnificent.

He added: “Their first thought was for the residents in their care. They are a shining example of all that is best about social care in Wales and I believe their heroic efforts should be recognised with an award. It is proof, if any were needed, of the calibre of people we have working in social care in Wales.”