Thursday, September 15, 2005
Another Hurricane Story
Reuniting families was the best part for Julie Lambert and Mona Saddler, Tooele County EMTs who spent a week volunteering to help victims of Hurricane Katrina seeking shelter in the Houston Astrodome.Reuniting families was the best part for Julie Lambert and Mona Saddler, Tooele County EMTs who spent a week volunteering to help victims of Hurricane Katrina seeking shelter in the Houston Astrodome.The worst part, Lambert said, was how little they were able to do in the face of the overwhelming sea of suffering."It was the most exhausting thing I've ever done," Lambert said. They never worked less than 20 hour shifts, and Saddler worked one 36-hour stint before she was able to get back to the hotel and sleep.Lambert and Saddler thought they would be put to work doing triage assessment and providing emergency medical care.Instead, they were directed to a room of some 200 people, most of them ages 60 and older, and set to work doing "basic nursing-home type stuff." Their medical experience was limited to offering support care for people suffering from a virus."Most of what we did was be an advocate" for the people in her charge, Lambert said. The elderly evacuees were exhausted, confused and "had know clue how to go through the system," she added.Left with little but a garbage bag full of moldy socks, survivors clung to these scant possessions like shipwreck victims clinging to a life boat."Some would not even get up to go to the bathroom" because they were afraid their garbage bag of wet clothing and tuna fish cans would be gone when they returned.One man spent three days on a roof, watching horrors of dead bodies floating past him. He said the memory burned in his mind was watching an Irish Setter swimming in panicked circles. He was unable to get the frantic animal to the safety of the roof, but had to watch as it exhausted itself until it drowned, she said.Another man told her of his heartbreak when he realized he had to leave his nine cats locked in his house and seek higher ground."It was an incredible experience," Lambert said. "I would do it again in a heartbeat. After I get a nap."