Heart to Heart International could not function without dedicated volunteers in all aspects of our organization. In honor of National Nurses Week, we are highlighting a few of our amazing nurses who have volunteered or worked with HHI, bringing help and hope to those in need.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August of 2017 , Krista Reha watched the news with shock, heartbreak and a feeling of helplessness. She wanted to help somehow, but didn’t know how.
“My friend told me about Heart to Heart,” Reha said. “So I sent an email off to HHI, offering to help with Hurricane Harvey on an early Sunday morning, by Monday afternoon I received a phone call and by Wednesday, I was off to Houston!”
Reha currently works as a Pediatric Emergency/Trauma Nurse at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, though she hasn’t always had a career in nursing.
“I didn’t go to nursing school until I was 39,” she said. “So just know that it’s NEVER too late to decide what you want to be when you grow up!”
While in Houston with Heart to Heart International, Reha worked at Casa El Buen Samaritano, a clinic whose patient load had drastically increased after the flooding, and with outreach tetanus vaccination clinics in the surrounding communities.
“I was just thrilled to be a part of an amazing group of people who started as strangers, and without hesitation, we seemed to fit so well together and worked as a team. Doctors, nurses, NP’s, and others without medical degrees at all, but we were ALL the same, and egos were left behind, because the needs of the victims of Harvey were our main focus.”
Many of the patients Reha interacted left a permanent impression on her heart. One older gentleman who was deaf, blind and in a wheelchair came into Casa El Buen Samaritano while she was working.
“I don’t speak Spanish,” Reha said, “but I soon learned that a comforting touch, a hug, and the willingness to be patient, was good enough for him. By the time I’d drawn his labs, given his tetanus shot (he was furious his family hadn’t warned him!), he held my hand, and told his daughter to tell me I was an Angel. I’ll never forget him, or his family!”
Reha ended up volunteering two separate times in Houston with HHI.
“I truly enjoyed, and loved being in Houston, working with the other HHI and Project Hope volunteers and had I been able to stay for longer periods of time, I would have,” Reha said. “I remember the first time I’d went, on the flight home I was sad to leave, I was wanting to turn around and go right back – because there was still so much to do!”
Listening to the stories of the people who had lost so much is one of the things Reha remembers most about her time in Houston with HHI. Even though it seemed patients were often uncomfortable receiving help, Reha emphasized just how much she herself gained from the experience.
“They [the patients] seemed shocked that we were willing to care for them, with nothing expected in return. You could tell some were uncomfortable ‘taking’ our help, without giving in return. But they DID give in return, they allowed us to care, to give and it really does make one humble,” Reha said. “Some cried, and that’s when we quietly sat, listened and at times, cried with them; some made jokes, some told stories of previous experiences with losing their homes to floods, hurricanes, fire … and what I learned was that each person had their own story, and every story was different.”
Reha has also volunteered with ISSA Trust Foundation on a Medical Mission Trip to Jamaica. She has also volunteered in a non-nursing capacity with Polk County Victim Services, and has spoken on crime victim panels to help educate others, mainly teens, legislatures/congressmen and also inmates in our prisons in and surrounding the Des Moines area. In addition to wanting to volunteer with HHI again, she plans to start volunteering with organizations that are involved in Mental Health/Suicide Prevention. She wants to be a voice for her son Jared, whom she lost to suicide in December of 2017 to Suicide.
Categories: Access to Healthcare , Disaster Response , Volunteers