Tamara Ferguson, a nurse in Paradise, California, had gotten a tattoo to commemorate a day of tragic and horror, that had ended with Ferguson and team heroically saving Paradise patients.
Her new forearm tattoo is of a tree that stands tall in the middle of the outline of California. A heart marks the city of Paradise.
“This date says, ‘November 8, 2018,’ which is the day, I guess, in a lot of ways I started living as a different person,” said Ferguson. “I won’t even take one second for granted.”
Ferguson said that that Thursday started off as routine, as she drove to Feather River Hospital in Paradise. Ferguson explained that Thursday was meant to be her “Friday” as she would have the next couple days off.
Shortly after she got to the hospital, and started the day’s shift, black smoke started barreling to Feather River Hospital.
“I picked up the phone and it said, ‘Prepare your patients for evacuation,’” Ferguson said.
Flames from the Camp Fire continued getting closer as nurses and doctors scrambled to get their patients out safely.
“By the time we got in the ambulance, it started where I could see flames all around me now,” Ferguson said. “It wasn’t just smoke, like you could see in the distance, but now it was just right around you.”
The flames were so extreme that an ambulance leading the way caught fire.
Ferguson and her team had made the call to stop at a home, about a mile from the hospital, that hadn’t caught fire.
Ferguson, alongside other first responders, rushed the patients into the garage.
“I don’t know if I was trying to convince myself, but I was just telling them, 'We’re going to be fine, we’re going to be fine,'” Ferguson said.
Firefighters instructed Ferguson and other nurses to grab shovels and rakes, trying to keep flames as far away from the house as possible.
Ferguson said that in that moment, her patients were the most important things.
“That became my focus. If you’re going to die, you’re going to die being a nurse. And you’re going to do your best,” she said. “If you have a chance of living, then this is your chance.”
They finally made it back to Feather River Hospital before evacuating to Chico, safely.
“It was the most terrifying and also miraculous day of my life,” Ferguson said.
Now, within the tattoo’s simple black lines, a heavy, and life-transformative story is held.
This tattoo is next to her RN stethoscope.
“I feel like it ties it together what happened that day and what I’m supposed to do,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson had gotten her tattoo done at 12 Volt Tattoo in Chico.
The tattoo shop is giving out “Butte Strong” tattoos for $50, and proceeds will be donated to Camp Fire relief efforts.