Reservoir of resilience: UF nursing student helps her family recover after Hurricane Michael’s devastation 


Megan Colravy never thought Hurricane Michael would go from a Category 2 to a 5, and she never imagined the storm would plunge directly into her family’s home in Panama City one year ago.

But her family wasn’t taking chances. They packed what they could and fled to Gainesville, where they took shelter with Megan, a University of Florida College of Nursing student.

Everybody, that is, except for Megan’s sister Lexi, who chose to ride out the storm in a shelter in Panama City, lying in wait for the “Category 5 monster.”

At the family home, three trees crashed into the second story, shattering the roof and allowing wind and rain to carry away most of the family’s possessions.

Emotionally exhausted and worrying about her family, Megan still had a job to do. Somehow, she had to steel herself and focus on her work in the college’s demanding Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or B.S.N., program.

“In the week or two following the storm, I had trouble concentrating on the classes,” she said. “I was running through scenarios of where my family would live, financial stressors and wondering how I could help from Gainesville.”

The reservoirs of resilience and emotional strength that helped her navigate this ordeal are traits Megan’s instructors say will help her in her career.

“She has high levels of emotional intelligence and resilience to withstand these kinds of life tragedies,” said Karen Reed, DHSc, R.N., M.S.N., a clinical assistant professor and co-director of the B.S.N. program. “If anything, she’s using these life experiences and translating them to make her an even more caring nurse.”

Megan’s family endured an enormous financial blow from the storm. Their house sat severely damaged and open for 10 months as they tried to pick up the pieces and navigate the insurance process.

“It was hard witnessing my family grieve over the sentimental items that we lost,” Megan said. Family pictures and many other items with “memories from years past” were lost amid the rubble.

Despite it all, Megan never lost focus on her nursing goals.

“With her heart heavy from all the losses she’s had, she persevered,’’ Reed said. “She stayed the path.”

hurricane damage
Photos of the damage to the Colravy home in Panama City following Hurricane Michael in 2018.

Megan never missed a class, traveling over six hours on weekends to be home in the Panhandle with her family. While Reed encouraged sensitivity from faculty colleagues for Megan’s situation, she simply “didn’t need it,” as Megan continued to perform to expectations.

Working as a licensed practical nurse, Megan picked up shifts while taking her courses, and she did it all with an immense “emotional strain,” said Reed.

Colravy found her passion for health-related fields when she was born with a cleft lip and palate. Undergoing several surgeries at UF Health Shands Hospital, she views her commitment to the B.S.N. program as her “way to give back.”

Colravy hopes to become an R.N., and eventually a nurse practitioner.

“I think my experience has taught me valuable life lessons to apply to the future,” she said, “I treasure my family and friends more than I have before. I am learning to be grateful for the wonderful experiences I have and to enjoy the present moment.”

Not even a Category 5 storm can rip her dream away.

By Jake Dima