September 13, 2005
A Rewarding Experience
Debra Hunt, ARNP, is from Clermont, Florida
and she has just returned from volunteering in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
I am trying to process the magnitude of the destruction from Katrina. I was part of a mobilization organized by the Florida Health Department of over 100 medical personnel, the majority of us nurses. My particular team consisted of 2 other nurse practitioners and an ED nurse. We helped establish a primary and special needs clinic in an abandoned restaurant in a mall.
Each day we treated nearly 100 patients with a variety of rashes and respiratory illnesses associated with the contaminated flood waters, as well as abscesses, lacerations, and puncture wounds. That was the easy part. Listening to the horror stories from our patients was heartbreaking. So many people were stranded in their homes in sea water contaminated with sewage, dead bodies, and oil. One 5-year-old little boy sat on my lap as he told me about his roof being in the next yard with all his toys, clothes, and many other belongings. What could I say to this innocent little child as we looked into each others eyes and talked about such horror?
We also went on several "house calls" and the violence of Katrina was so dramatic. People are living with dead fish and sewage in their yards. The black mold has taken over the inside of their homes so they live in the yard in pup tents.
spite of the sadness and destruction I can say that, without a doubt, this was
the most rewarding experience of my personal and professional life. The
people I met were some the kindest, warmest individuals I have ever had the
honor of meeting. We experienced no violence or hatred, just thanks and
heartfelt gratitude for any little thing we did for them. I feel blessed and
honored to have helped our neighbors in Mississippi
and I thank them for allowing me into their lives. I received so much
from them, perhaps more than we gave. I have a new appreciation for my
family and my colleagues because of this experience.
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