Subject: 5/27/10 Red Cross Journal Notes
Sent: May 28, 2010 4:50 PM

*******5/28 Update: Since one of our Red Cross primary mantras is “be flexible”, I am certainly an example of that. I was coming home on Tues the 1st. Last night I changed the date to tomorrow Sat, 5/29, 6 am. I was just asked to extend to sometime next week. So, I have again cancelled my arrangements, and my return date will be sometime next week. 5/27/10: I was sitting out on my brother & sister-in-law’s back patio, drinking a bourbon & water, resting after a perfectly lovely day of R & R. Every now & again my heart strings tugged, & I thought of the people struggling with their Recovery, while I enjoyed a day of sheer luxury. David & Lynne treated me as if I was a queen.  However, I know how important days off are for our own well being. One of my favorite mental health red crossers, Mary, says that our 1st obligation is to ourselves, 2nd to our Team, & 3rd, to the clients we serve; makes good sense that we pace ourselves, & enjoy the time we have off.   The final Shelter, Rice, Shelby Co, TN, we hope to close by the 2nd/3rd. This is a Hispanic community that we hope to place near one another, as they were a “tight” community before, living in a predominantly Hispanic mobile home park. ****We’ve just learned that a local minister, a landlord, has volunteered to take all of the Hispanic families, with no deposit!! Apparently, he has been vetted, & these are decent apts, so no worry today about them/clients being taken advantage of by landlords w/ filthy conditions. The car rental agency used by the ARC, is now charging an additional 29 cents a mile during our daily use, in addition to $ 8.00 a gallon if we forget to top off a tank. They are also charging $800.00 to $1000.00 per car, if we mistakenly drop a car off @ Memphis vs. Nashville. So, some red crossers after very long deployments have to drive 4 hrs to Nashville to fly out of there vs. here. Whew!  I am sooooo glad I don’t have a car to worry about returning. (5/28 I now have a Memphis car) We are now getting occasionally grumpy with each other, as we have many clients to yet see w/in a short period. We try to remember be kinder/gentler w/ ea other, & apologize after we bark. I have apologized 2 X’s already this morning. I suppose it’s better though when grumpy to talk if we can find a kind shoulder, & get it out, rather than barking @ clients or other Providers. Finding the available shoulder is sometimes difficult in our hectic days. I rely on my mental health colleagues, on our teams.  Still, we should be better toward each other. My most frustrating days are not the heat & long hours (although they are certainly taxing), in as much as the bump & grind that happens on occasion between WE ARE ONE RED CROSS. Enough said…..the unique stress of disaster response can play havoc with our souls/minds/hearts. Today I am in Memphis & Shelby Co, on Hot Shots, & reviewing Street Sheets. Hot Shots are when we physically respond to calls from the Red CrossCall In Centers, where citizens call requesting help; we try to establish face-to-face contact; we are also reviewing the initial damage assessments written on Street Sheets, where we record the neighborhoods affected.  We try to assess the level of damaged to a residence. I am riding today with a fantastic mental health clinician, David, who is in private practice in Ohio. We talk nonstop. He says he has given me a “clean bill of mental health”. He’s Jewish & I’m Catholic, & we laugh about the load of guilt wafting in the car. A bit of levity is a good thing. Today is easy & I should be fairly energized when I return, not the butt dragging sense I’ve had on some days. We met with a family of 7; the mother & 3 month old, in the news, as they were swimming out a window when photos were snapped by the Press. It’s almost a month since the storm & we are still finding pockets of people not yet served.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

5/25 Red Cross Journal Notes, Memphis, Tn Floods

Subject: 5/25 Red Cross Journal Notes
Sent: May 25, 2010 1:49 PM

The Response operations are winding down. Some red crossers are out-processing Thurs. I’m more than likely here until the 1st, as we are doing “outreach”, far away from Memphis, where we are finding pockets of flood survivors. These clients are the poorest of the poor. Most lived in horrible low budget motel apts, that meets our “major & destroyed” categories. They were rescued by boat through the fire dept & moved to other horrible motels. Primarily Caucasian, there poor people are those cast-a-ways of our society, with a myriad of special needs: serious & persistent major mental illness, persons with mental retardation, neurological/cognitive issues, seizure disorders, & physical disAbilities, addictions (crack & meth are the substances of preference), many, many, serious chronic medical problems, & a host of legal issues w/ Probation/Parole, etc. Lost glasses, medications, nebulizers, glucometers, wheelchairs, walkers, & even a prosthetic leg, all lost in the contaminated flood waters. I have been busy scrambling to replace these items. Most of those we are serving this week are TN Medicaid, Medicare, & benefit program recipients, but lost their cell phones in the flood, so we are coordinating Information & Referral, & developing wrap-a-round support systems. Most have been extremely appreciative, and although they might be a bit worrisome because of their issues, we have not felt much caution for our safety, because we are viewed as being their ticket to Recovery, & not a threat. Many are illiterate, & can’t understand the massive amts of paperwork they are being asked to manage. This work, although exhausting, energizes me, & my social work skills are flowing. I love this work & the people we are serving. I cringe when I hear other providers reference these folks with disgust.  Many very young moms with gaggles of babies. Everyone seems to smoke non-stop, made worse by their high stress & anxiety levels. Oral hygiene or the lack there of, is prominent, w/ many children & adults missing teeth due to decay. Our morning started off with roadblocks due to a chemical spill of sulfur dioxide which developed a chemical cloud. Finally after 3 detours, we made it to Dyer Co. Our teams in Millington were called back to HQs due to the spill. Keep in touch. I’m spending my day off tomorrow with my brother David Lichtermann & Lynne. Their gracious offer is wonderful; I can wash my clothes, sleep in, mail stuff too heavy to carry home; etc. I am over joyed. ~susan~

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Red Cross Journal Notes #3: Ms 4/24/10 Tornadoes







Did you know that while Mississippi is one of the most beautiful states, it also has large areas of abject poverty? I found the following stats about the state, in a note left for the responders going into the field one morning.  “Holmes Co’s median income is $17,000 & Yazoo Co is $22,000.  The national median income is $42,000.  Additionally, it has the lowest proportion of non-religious residents in the country, @ 4%. Religion is extremely important here; churches are packed on Sundays, & few are integrated. Church services are on Wednesday evening, Sunday mornings, & again Sun. evenings. Sunday services often last past noon. Family genealogy & history is very important.  Residents while telling their stories will inform you of their extended families, & how they are related by blood, marriage, or “country cousins” to other people.” Mud is not an issue today, however, in the areas we’ve serviced recently, they have poisonous snakes, & the bugs here are BIG. Brown Recluse spiders & red FIRE ants are our biggest worry. Hungry cats & dogs, abandoned by their owners due to the storm, frequently approach us, friend & foe; we carry dog & cat food, w/ jugs of water & bowls, to feed, & appease them. One team member was bitten by a dog yesterday, spending the afternoon in the ER. Another bitten today & as I write is in the ER (5/8). My first tears were shed yesterday, over finding a starving dog. He was so thin, you could see every rib; it broke my heart. We fed him food, until we were afraid too much food, after days of none, would make him sick.  Dogs are starting to form small packs; we need to be oh so careful. We’ve had a few situations where red crossers have become ill while in the field, & have returned home. This DR has the best Health Services for the Red Cross volunteers that I’ve ever experienced on deployment, a service I could have benefited from when I became so sick when in Galveston after IKE. Jutta, our staff services RN, who hails from Virginal, takes wonderful care of our needs. I learned a lot about the necessity for self care, from my personal experiences w/ IKE & Gustuv. I was in the field for 6-wks, did not get adequate days off, once for as long as a 21-day stretch, when I finally demanded a day off for my 78 year old red cross partner & me. We were pooped.  I became too exhausted, not hydrating adequately, & did not seek medical attention quickly enough when I caught the “FEMA crud”. We sometimes learn life’s difficult lessons experientially; I certainly learned the hard way.  Staff Health & supervisors here are very attentive to both staff emotional & physical health. We have been blessed with their attentive care. We continue to be in awe of the force of nature, & the resiliency of people. Some of our volunteers have never seen extreme poverty, & high illiteracy. Yet, these proud survivors are not system entitled, (there is something special about the poor survivors of Mississippi), and ever thankful for every shoulder to cry on, hug, Information & Referral, and their sense that we are not fancy smanchy outsiders, but people who truly feel a need to be of service to others, with no ulterior motive other than the fact we care. I get perplexed when friends & family in their wonderful accolades think there is something special about what we do. Red Crossers, & other volunteers, quite frankly, like disaster response work; in the midst of great tragedy we often find moments of great fun, and a wonderful sense of camaraderie. I have been travelling off & on with AmeriCorps young adults. I have never met a nasty AmeriCorps youth. I guess I have missed my own grown adult children & they help fill a void that nourishes me in the field. I have become close to Jason from Vicksburg/Michigan & Collins from NOLA/Atlanta. Reminds me of Jessie, Danny, Stacie, Rosa, et al, who I have become attached to on prior deployments. Disaster survivors, who are often a proud & thankful lot, make this work ever so rewarding.  We find great fun in this world of work; I’ve had moments with fellow red crossers that had me laughing until my sides hurt. 5/8/10: today we are “mopping up” in Yazoo; the storm was 2 wks ago today, so most needs have been met, w/ FEMA, MEMA, & the NGOs (non governmental organizations), meeting the needs along w/ a large cadre of local volunteers. We should get our new marching orders tomorrow, after we were given the morning off to go to church; so, w/ the few Catholic volunteers, we’ll go to Mass, then brunch, then onto headquarters, where we will find where we go next. My Manager, a wonderful Mississippi RN, is the Manager of Health Services, for the state of Mississippi. I will miss her. She said this morning that she would “guarantee” I was being re deployed. I think I’m going to Nashville, but plans are always fluid.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Red Cross DSHR Deployment Mississippi Tornado










As I was sitting in Shoney’s mid-morning today, after Bless the Lord, sleeping in this morning, I heard the most upbeat song from the ’80s, “I Believe in Miracles”. It gave me pause to think, of all the miraculous events I’ve heard personally, from the people who experienced them. From those sucked up into a tornado surviving, those who watched family pulled up in the air who survived, a favorite horse landing in a tree, after the horse trailer it was in, was pulled into the sky, sustaining total destruction, and the horse landed in a tree. He was cut out & down from the tree, and trotted away. Now the other amazing thing was, in the tree, with the horse, were two pieces of the metal trailer, forming a giant 6 ft cross in the tree, which remains there to date. I kid you not; I went back to visit the owner who I had met previously, to see it for myself. Now, you may not believe in a higher power, or could be Hindi, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Baha’i, LDS, etc., however, regardless, most would agree, sometimes extraordinary things happen which can’t be fully explained. Truly though, the most poignant moments are the survivor stories; who often holding your hand while telling the story, have tears welling in their eyes, as I fight back tearing up myself. Little snippets of joy, or stories of divine providence, coincidence, synchronicity, whatever, during their terrifying moments in the storm. The visual moments while in the field yesterday, & their accompanying stories are amazing. I had the time of my life yesterday in the field, travelling with a young, volunteer, on a Mississippi DAT Team, in the client casework function, who is a Funeral Home Director & Limo Escort Service business owner. Absolutely delightful….. funny, funny, stories. He’s in the field with us all day, then drives back to his business until very late, returns to the hotel, & gets up @ 6 am. I have been fussing at him about better self care. Our other fellow client case worker is my age peer, a 30 year former marine, who was a POW, in the Hanoi Hilton, in the cell next to John McCain. He escaped & swam to a US ship, remarking that he was just tired of being tortured.  Subsequently, he travelled to China w/ Nixon, assisted in the arrest of Noriega. In Panama, with many other fascinating stories. These men perfectly represent the joy of meeting & befriending so many wonderful red crossers. I have DSHR friends all across this country, whose continued friendships I cherish. Yesterday we found the Yazoo City, large green city sign, behind a destroyed business, & I have a picture of them holding up the sign.   I return to the field tomorrow, & probably will be moving soon to floods in northern Mississippi.  ~susan~

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment