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Hurricane Katrina was bearing down and my work in disaster relief for the American Red Cross was in full defense mode. Who were we sending? Were the volunteers ready? There wasn’t much time to sleep and sleep was important to me those days. It was August 26th, 2005 and I was 32 weeks pregnant with my first child. Our Red Cross offices were based in Maine. Each office is required to train and ready volunteers to be sent out for disaster relief. Disaster relief volunteers tend to be an odd breed of people. They live for disasters instead of fearing them. They are at the ready to leave the comfort of their own home for adventure into hotel living and days spent handing out gift cards and snack packs. For some, it is a way to volunteer once a year. For others, it is a retirement plan–a way to travel and help people without spending money. It is nothing if not a bonded community. People brought together simply to help other people.
I left the chaos of trip management and headed to my doctor’s appointment a couple of miles away. The nurse there slipped the blood pressure cuff over my arm and raised her eyebrows. I saw the numbers: 220/170. “I’m under a lot of stress at work right now. it’s usually normal,” I said. I wanted to get back to work. She called in the doctor who said that I needed to go right to the hospital for some more tests. They wanted to rule out a condition called preeclampsia before I went back to work. As soon as I walked in, it appeared they had been waiting for me. Someone sat me in a wheelchair and told me I’d be staying there for the night. My only thought was that I needed to be at work to prepare for more disaster relief. “My baby isn’t coming,” I told them. “This isn’t how it works. I’ve got 6-8 more weeks for him to grow.” They put me in the bedrest wing. I tried to get up the next morning, but I saw so many lights around my head that I sat back down. When I told the nurse, she rushed to get the doctor. “We think you may be about to have a Stroke,” they explained. “Your baby is coming out today.” They wouldn’t even let me get out of bed, unlocking its wheels and rolling right down to the delivery wing. Hospital nurses and doctors tend to be an odd breed of people. They live for disasters instead of fearing them. They are at the ready to leave the comfort of their own home to help sick people who need comfort.
I sat back in my bed and let it all happen to me. There was no stopping it. As I waited, I watched on TV as Hurricane Katrina swept in. There was no stopping it.