Responding to Disasters: Why do you do it?

by kayakrn7

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An Orthopedic and Perioperative RN recently back from a disaster response to Northern Kentucky this past March writes about trying to answer the questions "Why do you do it? Why do you respond to disasters?" In the article he shares his struggle to find the answer and the amazing note from a friend that finally gave him an answer.

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    Responding to Disasters: Why do you do it?

    A friend asked me recently, "Why do you do it? Why do you respond to disasters?"

    Great question! Often I have struggled to share how I feel about disaster relief and my role and what draws me back, time and time again.

    The question has haunted me since returning from my first disaster response in September of 2005 to East Biloxia, Mississippi after Hurriane Katrina, and again after multiple responses to the Gulf Coast after it was ravaged by hurricanes, after my return from Haiti after the earthquake and again after working in the cholera treatment centers, and now after my latest deployment to the Pendleton County, Kentucky area this March following the devastating tornadoes in the area.

    Others, of course, have tried to answer the question for me often using the words "crazy", "insane", "heroic", "an angel" and yet I don't feel any of those apply to "why do you do it?"

    Other's just ask more questions hoping to help me define it:

    "Is it the money?" Very few responses have been paid, some cover daily expenses, a few have provided financial compensation, but as my wife will tell you, by the time I replace the items (professional and personal) that I donate before I have left the disaster area I'm usually in the hole...

    "Is it the adrenalin?" No that only lasts a few hours...then comes exhaustion...

    "Is it the attention?" No, few ever know I was gone...except my family, close friends, an understanding boss, and my dog...

    "Is it the collection of shirts, vests, jackets, uniforms, name tags?" Not really (but some of them are really cool!), and they do bring back great memories...

    "Is it the chance to travel?" Have you ever slept on the ground or a mesquito net covered cot for two or three weeks eating MRE's three times a day...

    "Is it 'a calling'?" I'm not sure, I've just always felt it was the right thing to do...

    I do know that I have never felt it was about me. I have always felt it was about those whose daily lives have been touched by the disaster. With each response
    I have cried with them, laughed with them, listened to them. I have heard their stories. And each and every time I leave to return home, I feel the people I was sent to care for have given me far more than I gave them. And yet I still struggle to answer the question.

    Then last night a friend posted the following quote on Facebook:

    "We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there too." Kristin Martz

    And now I know why I do it...thank you my friend...
    Last edit by Joe V on Mar 28, '12
    Brannray, Esme12, jaclibra, and 2 others like this.
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  4. About kayakrn7

    Kevin Mollenhauer BS RN CNOR ONC is the Orthopedic Program Liaison at Sycamore Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio. Mollenhauer is also a member of the NDMS DMAT OH5 team, a Red Cross Volunteer, and a member of the Tri-State Medical Reserve Corp and often draws on these experiences of providing Nursing care during disasters for his presentations.

    kayakrn7 joined Dec '06 - from 'Ohio'. kayakrn7 has '10' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Periop and Ortho'. Posts: 8 Likes: 73; Learn more about kayakrn7 by visiting their allnursesPage


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    5 Comments so far...

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    "We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there too." Kristin Martz

    This is a great quotation to end a great article; I always say that when ministry feels too good to be ministry, you're ministering in the right place! One of the things that drove me to attend nursing school in the first place was wanting to help after Katrina, and I think it's awesome how you have given of your time and talents to help after so many disasters. I hope to join you out there one of these days; I interviewed last week with the local Red Cross chapter to train as a disaster nurse, and when I have more experience, I hope to participate in medical missions and disaster responses. Kudos to you!
    Brannray, kayakrn7, and Esme12 like this.
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    I'm glad you found the answer to why you do what you do. I know my God given love to help others feel better comes from the help I received from people who cared to help me when I needed it the most. It's like a love bug that bites you, and every time you respond to the need, you feel oh so good for helping and giving to those in need.:heartbeat
    kayakrn7 and Esme12 like this.
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    "We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there too." Kristin Martz
    =) thank you.
    kayakrn7 and Esme12 like this.
  8. 2
    Quote from Franemtnurse
    I'm glad you found the answer to why you do what you do. I know my God given love to help others feel better comes from the help I received from people who cared to help me when I needed it the most. It's like a love bug that bites you, and every time you respond to the need, you feel oh so good for helping and giving to those in need.:heartbeat
    It is love a love bug that bites you........by the way, I hope you are well!
    Franemtnurse and kayakrn7 like this.
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    Wishing you the best! You will find disaster nursing to be an amazing field...let me know if I can help in anyway. km


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