I knew it was coming, but I didn't ever dream it would be this bad. I have been in hurricanes before. Where I live, the wind always is strong, so tropical storm winds are equal to spring time weather.
At work in our hospital, we focused on getting information out to Team A and Team B. Who was expected to show up when, what they needed to bring - including bedrolls, family members, pets, snacks, etc. We initially planned for a 3 day stint, and then Harvey was upgraded to a level 1 then possibly a 3 or 4, and as the expected rainfall turned from inches to feet, the plans were extended to Team A possibly staying 5 days to care for patients.
When our area in Corpus Christi was spared the full impact of Harvey, our sights turned from our own homes to our neighbors just north of us. Many of our employees, family, and friends live in these areas and their homes were in ruins. Some of them we have not even been able to contact yet. So we packed up our gear - stethoscopes, scrubs, pillows, sleeping bags - from the hospital and went home. We repacked new gear - work boots, gloves, shovels, rakes, flashlights, food, water - and headed north.
On Monday, post-Harvey, we arrived at one of our own nurses home in Aransas Pass. Her roof was badly damaged and her home flooded, no electricity or water. We went to help restore her home, but she pointed us to her neighbor who was also in need. And she went over with us to put a tarp over her neighbor's missing roof, help with clean up, and offer support even though her own home was in great need of repair. We watched as a small 4-year old boy, who lived in that home, wearing a pair of winter Spiderman gloves picked up single small tree branches and threw them in the brush pile. Even the youngest of us was willing to help and not afraid of hard work - and my heart broke.
We drove up and down roads handing out flashlights, food, water, gas cans filled with gasoline for generators, work gloves, tarps, rope, baby wipes for "baths" since there is no water, and hugs. Lots and lots of hugs. At one badly damaged home, a few adults and about 8 children were in the front yard sitting down on what was left of the porch steps. They looked like they came from a third world country and still looked like they were in shock. They gratefully accepted canned spaghettios, flashlights, water, snacks. They literally had nothing. They were hungry, thirsty, and exhausted.
Word got out that a small group of nurses and doctors were heading out every day after work. My office became the donation station with supplies offered from big-hearted folks. We have been creating care packages from the supplies and handing them out. Every day we have been able to go out and cut down trees off of roofs, haul brush, insulation, soaked mattresses, ruined items, roofing materials, etc., to huge piles for pickup. We have helped folks look for anything salvageable to keep, and we have been truly humbled.
We have been humbled at the resiliency, the graciousness, the gratitude. Truly, no one has been asking for a handout, but pointing us to others who may be in greater need. The victims are trying to care for the volunteers by offering us water to drink when WE are thirsty or tired from the work. The outpouring of love from other cities, counties, and states is astounding.
There has been so much animosity and anger in our nation in the past few years that it has taken a catastrophic event of astronomical proportions to wash away the hate and breathe new life into us - bringing hope, help, and healing.
As we trudge forward every day to clear the piles of debris, may this newfound life spring forth, may we not only rebuild our homes and neighborhoods, but our country as well. May we quit pointing fingers in anger, but instead offer open hands to help our neighbors. May we crush the spirit of division and become united. This is the reaction I have seen this past week from my community. Let's keep moving forward.
After all, we are healthcare professionals. Hope and Healing is our middle name.