Hurricane Florence: Being a support to survivors’ pain

Sometimes it’s easy to underestimate the power of water. But after more than 30 inches of rain fell and rivers crested beyond record-breaking flood stages during Hurricane Florence, unfortunately, some people discovered that power could be deadly.

Heart to Heart International has been in North Carolina since the beginning of the storm and has a medical team treating patients in shelters. Some shelters have no power, no running water and no sewer. They are hot, crowded and smelly. Often patients have preexisting conditions, such as high blood pressure or hypoglycemia, that are exacerbated by the difficult environment. The HHI team goes in prepared to treat and prepared to listen. Because in some cases, simply knowing that someone cares can be the most potent medicine.

One woman the team treated was an 86-year-old woman who was not in great health. Her son was with her and told their story:

The woman and her two sons were in a car fleeing the storm when the flood waters began rising. Rapidly. The car ran into high water and before they could get away, the car was washed right off the road. The son grabbed his mother and pushed her out of the car. He found a branch and, with his mom in tow, grabbed on to it. For 40 minutes in the rain, rushing water and wind, he clung to that branch and to his mother. And as he did, he watched the water sweep away the car. With his brother still inside.

The son was afraid to tell his mother about his brother. She hadn’t seen the car get swept away. She didn’t know he had been killed. She kept asking for someone to check if he was in another shelter. But, the son who was with her wanted the HHI medical team to evaluate her condition before telling her the news. He was worried her health couldn’t handle the news of her son’s death after just losing her husband last year.

Together the HHI team and her son formulated a plan to evaluate her health at the shelter then coordinate with a grief counselor to admit her to a hospital before sharing the news of her other son’s death.

HHI can treat medical problems of those who survived Hurricane Florence, but the long-term anxiety and stress will not disappear when the flood waters recede. The son was grateful to the HHI team for connecting his mother with the resources they needed, but he admitted, “All I can think of, all I can dream of, is my brother going down in that car.”

Sometimes in the face of that, all we can do is listen. And care.

Categories: Access to Healthcare , Disaster Response , General News