Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuscaloosa Rescue Mission Video

This is the video I put together with the photos from all four days, with a special emphasis on our connection with the Red Cross.

Tuscaloosa Rescue Mission Video

Sam & Kathy

After working a good part of the day Tuesday, we managed to find out way over to the Tuscaloosa Vineyard Community Church. I'd been loosely connected with them by my former pastor in Augusta, and we wanted to just check in, say hello, and see if we could somehow serve them. What ended up happening however, was altogether unexpected.

After initial introductions were made, Amy (the administrator) says, "Where are you guys going to be staying?" We honestly didn't know, and said so. The night prior, we'd been blessed by a family from St. Matthias who allowed us to stay in their RV, but things were sort of up in the air. I wasn't worried by any means; if worse came to worse, we could sleep in the car. :-)

But Amy wouldn't hear of it, and got on the phone and posted a request on the church's facebook page.

Within a couple of hours (during which time I took a nap on the oh so comfortable floor of the church) she'd found us a host family, who was willing to accomodate our entire group.

Meeting Sam and Kathy was like meeting old friends after having been apart for a while. They were warm and gracious and incredibly accomodating. They tolerated our clomping boots late in the evening and early in the morning, and made sure we felt welcome at every single turn.

These people are absolutely the epitome Wimber's vision of "doing the stuff." There are a hundred good reasons they could have said no, but they chose to say "yes." Their home was our sanctuary; the safe, secure place to return to at the end of the day. The place where the images that tormented us throughout the day could be laid aside at least for a while.

Though we went to Tuscaloosa to be the rescuers, Sam and Kathy were assuredly just as much ours.

Miss Cora & Becki

Skip Warm from the ARC asked me to check on several patients they'd identified the day before during an ERV route.

Armed with a partially working GPS unit and a list of addresses, we set out to find these people who needed our care. Very quickly we discovered that the state police was doing a better job with road blocks however. After being redirected several times, I finally reached the end of patience and called a young policeman over to my car. I explained the situation to him, and he began to give me yet another set of instructions. Finally, he just stopped talking, looked at me, and said, "You know what, just follow me. I'll give you an escort."

Following behind this young man, EVERY single road block was opened to us. Gates were moved out of the way, and we were waved through with smiles. Law enforcement was happy to see that we were there to help, and with the proper credentials, they were happy to LET US help.

When we arrived at Miss Cora's house, I was stunned to find a 97 year old woman inside. I was expecting 60'ish elderly, not nearly 100! She invited us in, and I began taking survey of the surroundings. Miss Cora was telling us about how the "kids" in the neighborhood had helped her clear off her porch already, which explained why her home was so clean already. While giving her a simple physical, she told us about her experience on April 27th. This woman rode out the tornado that whipped through her neighborhood on the arm of her couch, behind the front door because she couldn't get closed again once it blew open. She sat there, quoting the books of Psalm, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will NOT fear!"  She told us this with special emphasis, and immediately began to credit the Lord God with saving her. She told us when it was over, she could hear her "babies" calling to her, "Miss Cora! Miss Cora! Are you ok!" She said she could see through the trees and damage the college children whom she loved running toward her home, toward her, and she knew she'd be ok. She said they dug her out of the debris with their bare hands.

These "kids" call this woman Granny. She cooks spaghetti for them once a week, and counsels them, loves on them, and ministers to them as only a Granny can.

We came back the following day to check on Miss Cora again and I was pleased to find her blood pressure was down significantly. She seemed to be doing well, except her hands were so cold. I chalked this up to her being  97 and having undergone a severe trauma. All her other vitals were grossly normal, and we left with the promise to visit again the following day.

On Friday, our day got off to a rough start, and I missed the lunch run. At dinner time however, a new addition to our team went on the run with the Cincy-ERV crew and called me shortly after getting out in the field. She was giving me the stats on an elderly patient, and I realized she was talking about Miss Cora. I was on the other side of the city, consulting with a loving and willing helper about my favorite patient. I was nervous b/c our new team member didn't have the experience we had, but I shouldn't have worried a bit. Once I told her to get EMS out there, she not only set that ball rolling, but she ran the show! When they arrived, they seemed reluctant to take Miss Cora to the hospital, but Becki wouldn't have it. She set those paramedics in their place, told them to hold onto their butts, and managed to get Miss Cora into the ambulance and the paramedics doing what they needed to be doing. As it turned out, Miss Cora had serious internal bleeding, and another night without care would have resulted in her death.

It just goes to show that "experience" isn't always necessary when you pay attention to that spirit man inside of you. While Becki had some medical training, it wasn't the caliber of mine or Carrie's. But she was there, she knew what she knew even if she didn't know WHY. She reached out for guidance, received it, and RAN WITH IT. And ultimately saved a precious woman's life.

So to Becki, a gift from me and Carrie. You earned it when you stepped into boots that weren't yours to fill, but needed filling. You've skipped boot camp and gone straight to the war zone my dear, and by God, you've earned your stripes. Both of us will serve in any trench, ANYWHERE with you.

Sgt. Mike

Day One at Ground Zero

This morning, I hooked up with Sgt. Mike. Former Vietnam vet, and full on combat medic. We took our small crew to get registered at the medical tent and quickly realized there were way too many nurses for us to be able to do much good. A friendly paramedic told us that if it were up to her, she'd be out on the streets going door to door. So that's what we decided to do, with Michelle (the only non-medic) in tow as our intecessor and photographer.

We took to the streets, and managed to map ourselves a path that wound through the epicenter of the tornado that took out Alberta City. When I say, "took out" I mean that literally. Look at the pictures. It's gone. We started banging on doors, announcing ourselves to the residents who were still holing up inside of their damaged homes - the ones that still had walls standing. That day, we treated a lot of high b/p, diabetes, and various scrapes and burns. Sgt. Mike and I identified a couple homes that needed to be reported to law enforcement for recovery.

It began to rain, and we turned a wary eye to the sky. The saying goes that lightening doesn't ever strike the same place twice, but we couldn't set aside the fear that was laid into our hearts. All around us was the rubble of an entire community - shredded homes and lives were all the evidence we needed of mother natures fury.

Cold, wet, exhausted. . .we returned to the medical tent and exchanged our contact info.

We parted ways with Sgt. Mike that day, and unfortunately didn't see him again. But that's ok. . .because somewhere out there is a sergeant who gave all he could give that day to serve his neighbors. He hit the streets with a 20lb pack on his 60 year old body because reaching out is what he knew. Because the selfless creed of the soldier was still ingrained deep within him. Because, as Sgt. Mike put it, "It's just the right thing to do."

Yes Mike, I do believe you're right. Carry on my brother. Hooo ah!

Tuscaloosa Trip, May 2, 2011

On April 27th, 2011, multiple tornadoes struck areas of the south leaving a path of destruction over a hundred miles long. On April 28, a small group of people began to knock around the idea of how they could help, and within a few hours, the Tuscaloosa Rescue Mission was birthed.

We left early morning on May 2nd, taking a van and trailer full of donations and supplies, and a medical team to provide care to residents. We were loaded to the gills, and ready to roll.

By Tuesday morning, we were at Ground Zero. There simply are not adequate words to describe the destruction we were in the midst of. Homes were simply gone - just blown away. Trees were down everywhere and there were cars in the ones that were still standing. We saw a city bus in someone's living room (or what used to be their living room) and sheet metal from roofs hung up on standing power poles and trees like dirty laundry.

We spent the next several days going door to door providing basic medical care. We treated cuts and scrapes and burns as well as diabetes and high blood pressure, and even closed a head wound on a sidewalk. One patient (who will be discussed later) was suffering from internal bleeding, and had it not been for the persistence and experience of our team, would have gone unrecognized and unseen and she would have died. EMS took her to the hospital, only to find that if she'd gone a few more hours without treatment, she would have certainly died.

Working with the American Red Cross was the best move this team could  have possibly made. Under the direction and leadership of Skip Warm, we were put on ERV's which allowed us to get into the middle of the worst hit areas, and provide care for the residents therein. We took care of patients, and jumped in to help serve meals as well. We made close friends in those foxholes, slipping into that easy place where the terror and devastation around you bonds you more quickly to one another than years of friendship.

Follow the blog for new posts, for stories and testimonies about the people we connected with, and for the personal insights of those who were there for five days.