Unsung heroes of the night
Story By Tasha Esselstein
While most of us slumber, a group of unsung heroes diligently keeps the Lowcountry alive and thriving. From compassionate hospital workers to committed truck drivers, these night-shift employees perform essential tasks, ensuring the smooth operation of our world after the sun sets. We turn our attention to these unsung heroes — their challenges, sacrifices and extraordinary experiences — shedding light on the unwavering dedication of these remarkable individuals.
Carrie McClure: Nurturing new lives in the calm of night
With almost 21 years working as a registered nurse at Beaufort Memorial, Carrie McClure, RN, BSN, has developed a deep understanding of – and affection for – the night shift. Working in the hospital’s Collins Birthing Center, she appreciates the night shift’s rhythm and atmosphere. McClure says she is drawn to working nights because it allows her to spend more time with her patients.
“During the day you have the doctors in, dietary in, birth certificate people in, patients waiting to be discharged,” she said. “But at night you’re tucking everyone in, spending time one-on-one with your patients and helping moms bond with their babies.”
McClure explains how she manages her schedule to spend time with her family during the week: “I can get my little ones off the bus and have some time with them before I get ready to go to work,” she said. “Or when they were smaller, if they had something going on, like a party in the morning, I could just stay up for an extra hour. So I was able to be present for that.”
Her support comes from her husband and three children. She emphasizes that it’s essential to take breaks and focus on maintaining balance. “But some days, I don’t get out of bed for almost 24 hours because I’m so tired,” she admits. “I get up and go right back to bed.”
Audra Early: Answering the call of duty for our beloved pets
Audra Early, who has a bachelor’s degree in biology and has always had a passion for science and animals, recently transitioned her skill set to assist the night shift.
Working three 14-hour overnight shifts a week as an ER veterinary technician at Carolina Vet Critical Care, Early has accumulated over a year of experience navigating the demands of overnight veterinary care. Despite the challenges, she finds the job to be incredibly rewarding.
“I’m willing to lose a couple of hours of sleep knowing that pet owners at home can sleep well knowing that, God forbid, if something happens, there are people who are equipped to handle the situation at any time.” Early said.
She emphasized her and her coworkers’ mutual support, saying, “We support and lean on each other. I’m very grateful for the people I work with because we make the best of it.”
Despite her work schedule that makes plans with friends and family challenging, she can adapt her sleep schedule to make time for the essential things, including spending time with family, running errands and doing chores. “It makes the time that I do have with family and friends even more special because I have to put in a little extra work to get there,” Early said.
Brian Lemus and Andy Muhlgeier: Bound by brotherhood and service
Brian Lemus and Andy Muhlgeier are partners at Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue and work the overnight shift. Lemus is a supervisor who has been at the Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue for the past seven years, and working the night shift was something he always considered.
“My whole family has done work like this,” Lemus said. “My dad is a cop, my uncle’s a cop, my mom was a nurse, and I just like working with the community every day.”
Muhlgeier, although relatively new to the Fire and Rescue team, previously worked as an EMT in the northern region. When he relocated to Hilton Head Island, he wanted to stay in public and emergency services.
“Personally I’ve always enjoyed the night shift,” Muhlgeier said. “I enjoy the different pace, and I think that’s when you get to know your coworkers. With the conversations that you have at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, you get to know your people, and I think a lot of people here are close and very good friends because of that.”
Lemus said, “Yes, I know Andy better than my wife at this point.”
Dr. Carey Christiansen Ford: Illuminating lives through compassionate care
With a two-decade career in the medical field, Dr. Carey Christiansen Ford always has been captivated by the science of the human body. Working at Coastal Carolina Hospital, she is well acquainted with the night shift. Ford appreciates the hospital, given the patient diversity and the vibrant atmosphere that encapsulates the night shift.
“One aspect I particularly enjoy about working the night shift is the camaraderie of the team that works at night,” she said. “It feels like we are all in this together, and there’s a great group of staff in the hospital on nights.”
As a family medicine specialist and a mother of six children ages 3 to 17, Ford adeptly manages her work-life balance, finding joy in sharing her passion for her profession with her children. Ford actually prefers working the night shift and believes her schedule helps her work-life balance at home, as it allows her to have restful sleep while her children are at school, spend quality time with her family during dinner and then go to work when her children wind down for the night.