Recently, when one hurricane after another was making landfall on US soil causing widespread devastation and human suffering, I was wondering how I could help. How could I possibly make a difference given the enormous scope of these disasters? The answer came in an email from the Red Cross just a few days later. The job requirements were tailor-made for me and my skills.
I knew it would be a challenge. Was I up to the task? I said, “YES” anyway. Five thousand health and mental health professionals nationwide also said, “YES” to a call from the Red Cross!
I have been volunteering in Disaster Health Services as a nurse in our Cascades Region chapter of the Red Cross for nearly 12 years. I have deployed to both local and national disasters, but much of my time has been spent recruiting and training other health professionals in disaster response.
For the past month, I have been working from a spreadsheet of 200 health and mental health professionals from both Oregon and Washington; recruiting, training and deploying them to the nine Red Cross hurricane responses we have in Texas and Florida. It has been a huge undertaking with long hours, but definitely rewarding.
I asked many of those that I deployed to let me know about their experience when they returned home. I especially wanted to paraphrase one nurse’s story when she returned from Texas. It is stories like this that make the hard work so worthwhile!
She told me the trip was simultaneously incredible and heartbreaking. She and another nurse were on outreach teams helping people with health care needs, and she met many resilient people. The experience was rewarding, but painful because many continue to suffer. They have no insurance, nothing left, and nowhere to go. Some are recovering well with insurance covering their losses.
This woman was humbled and blessed to have this experience and would deploy again.
She said she had found her calling, but did not hope for more disasters. She thanked me for facilitating her experience with Red Cross. She felt very grateful both for the experience and the people she met. She ended by saying she would NEVER forget this time in her life.