Monday, March 28, 2016

Long Island Volunteer Lends a Hand Down South

By Donna Nicholls, American Red Cross in Greater New York

As massive flooding continues to affect communities in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, thousands of people have been left homeless and struggling by the ongoing disaster. Currently, about 2,800 homes have been destroyed, and that number continues to rise as isolated communities are accounted for. 

It is disasters like these that prove the commitment and compassion of our team, as more than 1,800 Red Crossers alongside partners provide shelter, food, comfort, and medical care to the displaced. 

Last week one of our own health services volunteers, Debbie Hayden, deployed to Southeastern Louisiana to do her part. She is currently managing a health services team there. We recently had a chance to speak with her to learn more about her work.

Q:  How many deployments have you been on?

A:  I have traveled outside of New York to serve in 5 previous national disaster relief operations so this is my 6th deployment.  I also served during Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.   

Q:  How are you able to help families on this mission? 

A:  I have been a registered nurse for 25 years.  On this mission, I lead a health services team of 5 nurses in Madisonville, Louisiana.  Together we are addressing disaster related health needs such as lost medications and medical equipment.  We also provide nursing support such as education, advocacy, and referrals to other agencies who can help with their specific needs. 

Q:  Who are you finding needs the most help? 

A:  Many of my patients are single mothers with their children as well as elderly and disabled residents.

Q:  Is there one particular survivor who inspired you?

A:  Yes.  I met James, a United States Air Force veteran who is about 60 years old.  He is a resilient man. He is living in a Red Cross shelter.  He has many health issues and requires oxygen at all times.  His home was destroyed by two feet of flood water.  When we left the shelter for the day, we saw him plug in his oxygen concentrator machine and lie in his cot.  I remember him saying “I don’t have much time left on this Earth and I’m not leaving this town.  It’s my home.  I will find a way to get by.”  

Q:  What do you hope people learn about the families you helped in Louisiana? 

A:  The people of southern Louisiana are just like New Yorkers.  They love their homes and their hometowns. 

To learn more about the Red Cross response to flooding in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi click here. 

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