Healing from Disaster

Reading and watching the news on the destruction and loss of life in Alabama from the most recent outbreak of tornadoes and severe weather- it’s so easy to appreciate all that you have.  Seeing video and photos of the destruction makes it easy to understand our fragility as human beings against the sheer force of nature.  Since moving to Seattle, I find myself thinking about the possibilities of loss and destruction from things such as tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcano eruptions.  Ironically, growing up in the midwest, tornadoes were a possibility in every severe thunderstorm that we had and still the possibility of their magnitude and destruction capability isn’t something you ponder or contemplate.  It’s not something you can wrap your head around.  The loss and obliteration of one block and leaving the next block untouched.  The photos and the videos that have come in so far from all across the southeastern U.S.  are unbelievable.  My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has lost loved ones, homes, pets, and most of all their feeling of safety.

As the death toll climbs, and the power remains off for nearly 500,000 people in northern Alabama, I can’t help but be curious about the health care that is available to the people of the area and the disaster management plan that is in place across out the region. In Tuscaloosa, the hospital treated 800 people with injuries from the tornado and admitted 100 people all while on back up power.  There have been a few news stories from the region about working the “night of organized chaos” interviewed staff at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa. Their story was featured tonight as well on http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy“>NBC’s evening news.  It’s hard to imagine the working conditions, the emergency treatment these patients needed, the stress and emotional trauma they, hospital workers and patients, were all facing as residents of the area.  In Huntsville, the hospital was running on generator power while still open for business and being able to provide emergency care to those who need it.  It really speaks to the hospital’s disaster response plan to be able to be open, treat patients, and be able to admit 40 of the 76 patients they saw  with injuries related to the tornadoes.

Treating 800 people in one night is unimaginable to me.  Treating 76 and admitting 40 is also a very high triage number for any hospital. I find myself thinking about hospital response in any natural disaster.  I think because you really feel the impact and the value of the position that you hold as a nurse at a hospital when during a disaster you are expected and needed to report to work.

The hospital network and emergency response system in our country is very strong and hopefully that strength will a contributing factor to helping and healing areas devastated by this natural disaster.  My thoughts will be with the search and rescue teams over the next few days, with the families of those that are missing, and with the citizens who have lost their homes and neighborhoods.  Even from far away, there is so much each of us can do to help.

Please feel free to share your stories of the work you are doing to help in the region now or work you have done in the past during other natural disasters.

How to help

American Red Cross

Tuscaloosa Tornado Workers Assistance Fund

The Salvation Army

Feeding America

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