“Rain, rain… go away… come again ano-” A nurse quietly hums a classic nursery rhyme to a premature infant at Texas Children’s Hospital as Hurricane Harvey rains and winds slam the Texas Medical Center from all sides. Flooding traps both families and health care workers alike; at the same time, preventing families and workers from reuniting for the next few days.
– I hope this real life experience of a people confronted by chaos under extreme circumstances inspires that anything can be possible when our Love and willingness to help one another overcomes all. –
My eyes run dry. My body aches. My mind feels heavy. The past 72 hours seems like eternity. Despite everything that has happened…
My heart remains full.
I am a Stem Cell Transplant Clinical Nurse at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. My Mother is a Nurse Manager of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Texas Children’s Hospital, and my Brother is an Emergency Room (ER) Nurse at the same hospital. My Father had the vital roll to transport us safely to and from the hospitals despite flood warning and severe whether so that we can help as Disaster Recovery Team efforts were underway. Shout out to all the health care providers that were a part of the “RIDE OUT” Teams who took on the daunting task to provide high quality care to their patients and extend their care to anyone and everyone while enduring their own personal hardships.
At the end of August 2017, We experience a Category 4 Hurricane “Harvey” blindside our great state of Texas and put the City of Houston at a stand still as many watched in complete helplessness as this major storm waged war against our environment. The amount of social media post and LIVE news coverage was overwhelming as everyone’s eyes were glued to the the television and radio stations as this catastrophic event unfolded. There are literally millions of eye witness accounts and first person experiences that can be shared.
I thought it best to narrow my shared experiences down to five.
Here are 5 incredible moments that I experienced and witnessed in Houston:
The elasticity of this city to bounce back stronger than ever can not be more evident than what I am seeing right now. At MD Anderson, I have a co-worker (identity protected) who had no choice but to ride out the storm at work knowing well their house was in easily flooded areas. Yet their mind and focus remained on their patients who are in similar predicaments. Pictures from family start to come in with 3ft water damages and a plan to recovery almost immediately in the works at the sign of day light. After 5 days of working, they are finally released. Not even 24 hours after water levels finally receded did their family and neighbors come together removed damaged property and start the construction process by clearing out the affected foundations. 48 Hours in and dry wall/furniture is already being replaced in efforts to make their home… well… feel like home. Not to mention, they helped out other families in need despite their own needs.
What it means to be Human. There are pictures that began to surface as Search & Rescue missions were underway. The first I saw was of Houston Police SWAT office Daryl Hudeck who carried Connie Pham and her 13-month-old son Aiden from their home through flood waters. During one of the LIVE television coverage feeds, I witnessed a First Responder carrying a child on his shoulder while walking through water. The child was in a state of shock yet the Rescuer calmly tried to lighten the mood by making easy conversation and turning the whole ordeal into a game to ease the child’s mind. It worked. Empathy felt by the people of neighboring states and countries… thus endless effort to send support and supplies continues. Lives were saved left and right. There are Rescuers professional and non-professional who lost their lives in an effort to save others. We will forever be grateful.
Volunteer.. after volunteer.. after volunteer.. I witness both Professional Disaster Relief Workers and people who just wanted help work hand in hand. Even those who live in Houston who were affected were still Volunteers at the first opportunity to do so! FEMA activated the Task Force Emergency Response Teams in 28 states. There’s a video of the Police Department in Trinity, Texas showing video of the NYPD/NYFD caravan of cars, trucks, boats and emergency vehicles racing to get to the hardest hit areas of Texas. There are pictures of California Task Force Teams assembling almost instinctively to leave at a moments notice. From West to East coast of the United States.. in times of disaster we are truly “UNITED.” My heart is still racing with the incredible feeling that we are not in this alone. There are many times our Texas Task Force and Emergency Teams have left our state at a moments notice to help other parts of the country and the world… but this time… we are the one’s needing saving and they responded.
One of my favorite acts of kindness and charity I witnessed at the George R. Brown (GRB) Convention Center. They have 2 corners dedicated specifically for Animal/Pet care and another for providing entertainment for babies/children who may have no clue of everything going on. Animal organizations all of the nation came together to reunite animals with their owners and given homeless ones a new home. One dog unfortunately had their leash caught onto a fence as water started to rise. Rescuers on a mission to save did not discriminate between people and animals alike; thus the dog was saved. I also saw people dressed up in full costume which included characters such as Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Pikachu, Spiderman, Batman, etc. Their main goals was to bring light into the mood and to ease the whole experience for families with young children. The smiles on all their faces lets you know these characters touched their soul and filled it with happiness.
For those us who live in Texas, we are well aware of the city “rivalries” we have with one another and our schools. Our pride to represent where we came from is so strong that we often butt heads. This time… we showed what it means to be #TEXANSTRONG. One prime example, is our rivalry with the City of Dallas. Houston vs. Dallas sport games have always been fun to watch and the trash talk is endless. Dallas people were actually some of the first to organize large scale evacuee support centers, creating one of the largest relief stadiums outside the city of Houston. There is a picture cartoon showing 2 arms holding hands. One arm represent Houston reaching out from the waters only to be grasped by the helping hand that represents Dallas. San Antonio donation centers were surpassing capacity to the point they needed more volunteers to sort through the endless piles to send to Houston. There are more examples, but some of the few that stood out to me. Who would of that, our rivalries are basically our siblings. We fight, talk a whole lot, but we care for one another.
I share all these examples and stories to show that we should not focus on what keeps us separate, but highlight what makes us the same. In the face of catastrophe, we all are victims. Our ability Love, Hope, and have Faith is greater than any force of nature. As the spotlight falls on our city, may Houston set the prime example of what it means to live, work, breath, save, help, and love one another. This is the America we are talking about. We are all human beings on the same Earth. #HoustonStrong
P.S. Thank you for the endless calls, messages, and emails from my friends and family in and out of Texas! Also, safe travels to those who are coming to Houston to provided a helping hand as Nurses, Volunteers, Health Care Providers, Builders, and many more. Your services are always appreciated. Love you all. <3
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