CA CNA Katrina Volunteers

This is the link to a public photo album

Friday, September 16, 2005

Remembrances of my Houston Experiences

The help I was able to provide in Houston made a difference for the better. I only wish that I could have been there even sooner. Those who were there the first days told of 18-hour work days, with more and more patients yet needing to be treated.

The Harris County Hospital District had a humongous task dropped on them. They didn't have the luxury of forming committees to plan task forces to figure out how to survey resources to see what could be done as my hospital system (University of California) is still in the process of doing. They just had to do it and do it now. Those health care workers of Harris County with true leaders as their DONs and Medical Directors put a workable system together in the moment as it was needed. These people are true heroes and have my great admiration.

I mostly worked in the Triage and Fast Track areas of the clinic set up in the Reliant Arena. Most everybody I saw had been in the "dirty water" in New Orleans. They needed tetnus and hepatitis A vaccinations. Many had chronic illnesses like hypertension and diabetes for which they needed prescription refills of their daily medicines like insulin and blood pressure pills. I talked with an OB-Gyn doctor who said that many of the pregnant women coming in to her had not had any pre-natal care. Who knows how many among the thousands out there will never see a doctor until they deliver and maybe not even then. An OB nurse told me that they sent a 15 year old to the hospital who was 26 weeks along in labor. Oh how I wish we had universal health care!

Most of the others I saw that came through the clinic had minor wounds incurred while getting out of New Orleans. A lot of people modestly told stories of how they helped others to the superdome or a freeway where a pickup bus was supposed to come. Neighbor helping neighbor, stranger helping stranger. It still deeply touches me to think of it.

On Monday evening, while walking back to my hotel, I saw a few people demonstrating across the street from the Reliant Stadium. They were the New Black Panthers who were there to rally support for black (and working people) power. They were calling for the impeachment of Bush because of his mangled response to this emergency. I spoke with one of the protestors about the probable education level of the bulk of the people here. So many had limited verbal skills, unable to express anything without the F-word. We guessed that few had a high school education. Many of the young adult males dress in very baggy pants that are pulled up only to the top of the leg. It takes a certain amount of skill in how you stand and how you walk to keep pants like that up. But I thought about these guys walking like that into a job interview and them not getting very far. And all for a job that paid $5/hr. They must figure that it's better to take their chances on the street.

The other thing that I wondered about is the life skills the evacuees here have. Obviously they are survivors. But do they have the skills to know how to think ahead, plan ahead, budget ahead? Given money, do they realize what they will need it for? Those that have drug habits continue to need the drugs and indeed have found their drugs. Many people that came through the clinic wanted narcotics. Many wanted meds for pain--vicodin was on many's list of medicines, but the clinic stocked no narcotics. Apparently during the first few days a pharmacy truck was robbed, much to the disappointment of those seeking narcotics.

It is my belief that some of those that I literally rubbed shoulders with here in Houston will not want to take advantage of this chance for a new start. Some will want to, but not know exactly how even with all the aid. And some will take this chance and plug themselves and their families into the American Dream. Because of them, all that we have done and will yet do, is worth it.

Please check out my photos at

Sue, RN, proud California Nurses Association member


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At 8:27 AM, Blogger Mo D. said...

Thank you for doing what Nurses do best---responding quickly to an incedible need with skill and compassion. Many thanks for sharing this experience with us as well. CNA RNs ROCK!!

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