Special Reports

Joplin nurse and some of her patients build new lives in Lee’s Summit

After a powerful tornado ravaged Joplin on May 22, nurse Denise Pierson lost her job and her home.

But the single mother of three has a new start in Lee’s Summit — caring for some of the same nursing home patients she helped at her old job.

“Sometimes God works in miraculous ways,” said Pierson, who started her job at Jefferson Health Care a few weeks ago.

Pierson, a nurse, was on her way to work at the Meadows nursing home in Joplin when the twister struck. The trip took three hours because of the debris and because she helped injured people she found along the way. Once she arrived at her nursing home, Pierson spent the hours following the storm helping relocate the 107 residents, who went to hospitals, relatives’ homes and other safe places.

When that work was eventually done, though, Pierson was out of a job. The home was too badly damaged to stay open.

The good news is that Pierson was able to find a new job in Lee’s Summit with the same company. She learned about the position early one morning, drove to Lee’s Summit and was basically hired on the spot.

Several former Meadows residents had been moved to Jefferson Health Care, too. The Lee’s Summit facility is now home to eight residents from the Meadows and the Greenbriar, a sister facility in Joplin that was destroyed.

“It’s been such an easy transition for me because I’ve had patients with me,” Pierson said. “I think it’s been a good thing on both our parts because they recognize me and I know them.”

Most of the patients lost everything they owned as well, so the John Knox Village Auxiliary Thrift Shop provided free clothing, alarm clocks and other essentials.

“They really just came to us with the clothes on their backs,” said Launa Boston, administrator at Jefferson Health Care.

The thrift shop helped Pierson and her family, too, providing them with clothes, vacuums, toys and other items. Other employees at her job have also helped out, she said.

“It’s hard for me because I don’t ask for help,” Pierson said. “But when I get it, it’s such a gratifying feeling.”

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