Walking the Beach, Looking for Her Grandson

PH Grandma full sizeOne of those stories that will always stay with me is the story of the woman in the photo.  We met her while our HHI medical team was providing patient care in make-shift clinics after Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda tore through the Philippines in November of 2013.

It was now weeks after the typhoon and there was still nothing but destruction as far as the eye could see.  The medical system in the area, like everything else, was devastated by the category 5 typhoon and the 30-foot storm surge that came with it.  It’s why we were there.  As part of our typhoon relief operations, we had recruited volunteer doctors and nurses to provide care to people whose world had been wiped away.  By the time our ground operations had ended, these intrepid volunteers had seen more than 3,000 patients across the central Philippines.

On Day 40 after the typhoon struck, we were working in another barangay (neighborhood) of Tacloban.  Another day of hot, humid, tropical conditions.  A woman in her mid-60’s came to us.  Her blood pressure was astronomically high and she was in immediate danger of stroke or a heart attack.  Back home, she would have been admitted to a hospital right then and there on an emergency basis. However, we weren’t in the US and we were the only medical care available.

We gave the woman a dose of hypertensive medication and asked her to wait please, to make sure there were no adverse affects and to see how she responded.  She could barely sit still.  She was agitated and just kept repeating that she had to leave.  She eventually did walk away, medicine for a month in hand, off down the beach.

After she left we found out why she was in such a hurry.  A pastor, helping to serve as a translator, told us the woman’s five year old grandson had been swept away in the typhoon’s storm surge six weeks ago.  Since then, the woman had been spending everyday, all day, combing the beach and the wreckage looking for him.  That’s why she was in such a hurry to leave our little make-shift clinic.  She had to go find her grandson.

One of those stories that just stays with you.

Categories: Disaster Response , The Philippines