Many of us have been transfixed by the devastating stories brought to our living rooms from the Gulf Coast about Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. With such devastation, a sense of duty arose in many of our hearts. Perhaps donations to the American Red Cross fulfilled that sense of duty. But for others, helping the victims of Katrina and its aftermath firsthand was the only way to help.
For Ceci Brown, who has been a registered nurse at UC Irvine’s Student Health Center for 13 years, her sense of duty was too strong to simply donate money.
‘I just had to go. Just like everyone else that was there,’ Brown said.
Brown went to the Gulf Coast for 10 days volunteering with the Red Cross from Sept. 7 to17.
She flew into Montgomery, Ala., raring and ready to go, but she said it took the Red Cross some time to get organized. She grew frustrated with the disorganization she saw, especially since all she wanted to do was help those in need.
Eventually, with four female nurses and one male nurse, she drove to Gulfport, Miss. They were dispatched to open a shelter and give out money, but her group had seen two nurses crying over the state of a shelter for special-needs patients. They told Brown about the shelter and its horrendous conditions. There was no running water; people were using merely a hose to shower. There were no lights; the shelter was encased in darkness.
The shelter housed people with physical ailments, such as asthma, congestive heart failure and HIV and psychological ailments, such as schizophrenia. They were without medication because it was lost to the storm.
Finding a greater need at this shelter, the caravan of nurses ended up going to this shelter instead of opening a new one.
‘First I felt really guilty