This is a guest post by Nurse India. She graduated nursing from Florida A&M University in 2015. She currently lives in Orlando, FL and works as an ICU nurse. She volunteered two weeks of her time to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
Below is an excerpt from her diary detailing her experience:
Today marks one week that I have been here in Texas to help out as a relief nurse in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. When I first made the decision to come I was super excited to help but nerves and anxiety soon followed. I individually contacted some of my family and closest friends to inform them because I knew that me leaving home to go to an area of potential danger would make my loved ones uncomfortable. My nerves also led me to make a Facebook post, not expecting the love, appreciation and support that I received. Reading everyone’s comments and well wishes helped to ease my mind and allowed me to arrive at the conclusion that I was making the right decision. Luckily, one of my good friends and fellow classmates decided to come as well so it helped that I didn’t have to do this alone.
How did I end up here?
This is the number one question I received. Most people simply wanted to know how I was able to come help out. The short version of this story is that I work PRN for a company that was heavily involved in getting nurses to Texas. When I received the information for the opportunity to help, I focused my mind on getting here. The paperwork process of getting here was simple because I was already credentialed and Texas quickly processed my temporary license for disaster relief. The company was very upfront about what kind of conditions we may be living in and what kind of hours we may need to work. Mentally I knew that I had never experienced 16-hour shifts or slept on a cot in my nursing career but I was up for the challenge. I boarded a flight to come to Texas less than 24 hours after contacting the company.
The meet and greet
From the moment I arrived in Texas my experience has been nothing short of amazing. A total of 90 nurses flew into Dallas, energetic and ready to work. With all of us rounded up in a hotel lobby at 5:45 in the morning waiting to board buses that would transport us to Houston, a few company representatives explained that we were the very first group of nurses being deployed in the aftermath of the hurricane. Some of the nurses in these facilities had been locked in the hospital since before the hurricane hit and were eagerly anticipating our arrival. It was at that moment that I truly started to grasp that I had made the decision to be a part of something so selfless and pure. All of the nurses in that room were aware of what we may be walking into and we all did it with love in our hearts and smiles on our faces. One of the things that I love about the nursing profession is the bond that we share simply from our career choice. You can place complete strangers in a room and we find a way to form connections within minutes because we share the admiration and love for the nursing profession. We posed for pictures, exchanged phone numbers and chatted about everyday nursing experiences as we traveled 4 hours from Dallas to Houston.
“Everything is bigger and better in Texas”
Our first stop in Houston was Conroe Medical Center and as our buses pulled into the entrance of the hospital we were greeted by a large group of nurses and hospital administration that were clapping and cheering us on. They also held up a sign with a map of the world that stated “Nurses save the world”. I don’t think there was a dry eye on the bus, as we realized just how surreal this experience was becoming. As we unloaded the bus and gathered our luggage the cheering never stopped. The line extended inside as we were high fived and hugged while we walked into the facility. That moment was by far one of the best experiences that I’ve had in my nursing career. From the first facility we were separated into smaller groups according to the various facilities that we would be working in. At our second stop which was Tomball Medical Center, we were again greeted by nursing and staff that cheered us on as we exited the bus. Tomball became our command center that day, unexpectedly. The original plan was for the buses to drop each group off at their facility but the surrounding areas of the other facilities were flooded and the company had to organize alternative transportation. This was no surprise to us as we had already been told that we may need to get into the facilities via boat or helicopter. Although Tomball was only expecting 6 nurses, they inherited about 40 of us as we waited for the next stops in our deployment to our various facilities. They went over and beyond to make sure they we were comfortable in this transition. We were all eager to get to our destinations so that we could immediately begin to help. By 5pm my group that consisted of 11 nurses was slated to deploy to Houston Northwest Medical Center but faced more issues with transportation so the company decided to house us at Tomball for the night and prepare transportation for the next morning.
The final destination
The next day we arrived at Houston Northwest Medical Center, our final destination. By this time we had been in Texas for 2 days and we were still being greeted with cheers and hugs as we walked into the facility. The staff at Houston Northwest went to great lengths to ensure that we were comfortable during our time here. We were informed that we would not be working 16-hour shifts but rather a usual 12-hour shift and we were given access to private rooms with bed and showers for 2 days before being transferred to a hotel because the hospital wanted us to be more comfortable. Luckily, Houston Northwest Medical Center did not sustain major damage during the hurricane but their employees were heavily affected. All of the staff played an important role in making us feel welcome. Every single day that we are here someone goes out of their way to simply say thank you for being here. The response that I have received from deciding to come here has been one of the most humbling experiences of my life and I am grateful to every single person near or far that have shown their appreciation. More than anything I want the world to know that I am no hero, the true heroes are the residents of Texas that weathered the storm and had the courage to continue on in the aftermath. The people of Texas are not sitting around dwelling on their misfortunes but instead picking up the pieces and pushing through for another day; that is what life’s all about.
I’ve settled into a routine. Sleep during the day, work a 12-hour shift at night. I’ve worked as many as 6 days in a row. Usually 6 days tires me out on a regular job but my adrenaline has kicked in here in Texas and my main focus is working to help out as much as I physically can. I’ve started to form true connections with people here, some of the other relief nurses as well as some of the staff nurses. I’ve become so comfortable I’m starting to get sad at the thought of leaving. I never expected to come here and make friends. One of the hardest things about navigating through life is interacting with amazing people that you will probably never see again.
Hurricane headed for Florida
What is the irony in coming to Texas as a disaster relief nurse after a major hurricane just for another major hurricane to target my state a week and a half later. I’m anxious and I’m scared. The company offered to send me home ahead of the hurricane but I came here to help and I cannot abandon the people that need me. Now I have to sit back and pray. Track this storm on social media and news outlets. I’ve made contact with my family and friends to get an idea of their preparation plans for the sake of my sanity. My dog happens to be in Orlando boarded at his doctors office, I know it’s the safest place for him but I’d never forgive myself if something happened to him while I’m away. I feel helpless. It is the morning that the hurricane is set to make landfall in Florida. My stomach is in knots and before I can make my morning phone call to my mom I cry because I now wonder if I should have went back to be with my family. The one thing that has truly touched my heart is the concern that my colleagues at Houston Northwest have shown in the wake of the hurricane headed to Florida. They all made sure to check in with me and ask for updates on my family.
After the hurricane
I was always taught not pray and worry but that is easier said than done. The hurricane weakened by the time it reached Florida which lessened the impact. My family and friends were all ok with the exception of losing power; no one sustained any major losses. Sometimes in life, we have to make those hard decisions and trust that it will all work out in the end. My decision to stay was a leap of faith and I feel proud of myself for working through that fear.
As things unravel in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in Florida, Texas slowly began to find some sources of stability and my 2-week commitment has now come to an end. The state of emergency in Texas is officially over and that means I get to go home. I am humbled by the experience. I was able to interact with people from all walks of life. Natural disasters are untimely and unpredictable. There is no selection about who will be affected and there is no rule book on how to cope with the aftermath. Somehow Texas maintained their love and southern charm all while trying to reconstruct their foundation. As I board my plane, I had mixed emotions as I was excited to go home but sad that my time in Houston had come to an end. From this experience, I have learned that life will throw you into uncomfortable situations just to test your readiness for growth. Furthermore, opportunities are endless and the sky is the limit. Never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, make those challenging decisions and watch your destiny manifest in the process. I leave Texas a better person, a stronger nurse, and more importantly an advocate for the people in this world that need a little help along the way.
You can follow the awesome Nurse India on Instagram: @indialikethecountry