This hurricane season has been unprecedented in frequency, voracity, and devastation. Providers struggled to survive given the conditions hurricanes caused, then left. However, many have come through thanks in no small part to tremendous courage, resolve, and collaboration. Below are a few stories from providers that show the uniqueness of care and determination in the field.
Carole Smith, Executive Director of Private Providers Association of Texas wrote to tell us of an innovative story about a working to get a child much-needed medication. After three days without medication due to a pharmacy that was either inaccessible or no longer able to function, members of Protect Texas' Fragile Kids (PTFK families), the Cajun Navy, and others combined to have medicine air-lifted to a young boy named Noah. Video of the drop can be seen here and is well worth the watch.
Lauren Black, Executive Director of Reach Unlimited in Houston, Texas wrote in a tremendous story that has to be shared as it was delivered:
We had a group home with five clients (two who use wheelchairs) with water rapidly rising (it ended up flooding the house). The staff called for a rescue and the staff and clients were relocated to a small strip center about a ½ mile away by an evacuation team. The gas station was closed but a small donut store next to it was open so they took refuge in the donut store. The owner decided they needed to close so the staff member and five clients were left out in the rain. Fortunately a large furniture moving truck came by and saw them, loaded everyone to the truck and moved them another ½ mile down the road to a grocery store.
After several hours our concerns rose as the entire area continued to flood and the restroom facilities were not going to work for our clients in wheelchairs. Numerous folks spent hours trying to find transportation for the clients to another Reach Unlimited group home about 5 miles away. After numerous calls, the authorities could not provide service to anywhere but a shelter (understandably as their concern was preventing drowning for thousands of people).
We found people with boats but there was not enough water all along the route to get the clients all the way to the destination safely. Eventually, all of the people at the grocery store were moved on large vehicles to a church about 2 miles away from our ultimate destination. All of the people on the truck exited, and the kind man driving the truck for the county asked the staff what we were going to do in the shelter to meet the needs of our people. After the staff explained we had been trying for 8 hours to get to our other group home that was safe, he told them to stay put. The kind driver, transported our clients to the desired destination (most surely breaking protocol!) and our clients rode out the remainder of the storm/rains in a safe, dry place, where we were able to meet all their needs. We so wish we knew the name of that superhero that helped the Reach Unlimited clients, there are not words to thank him enough for his help! It restores our faith in all the good people in the world who care about individuals with IDD.
And that's not all. Heidi Mahoney of Mosaic in Southeast Texas brought us a story of a man with I/DD who rolled up his sleeves to help, because that's what firefighters do. Marcus Capozzelli – brother, son, Pizza Hut delivery person, volunteer firefighter and person with intellectual and developmental disabilities – stepped up to support his community during Hurricane Harvey. As a CPR-certified volunteer firefighter, Marcus was manned Needham Fire & Rescue to help as Hurricane Harvey battered the Houston area. Capozzelli fielded calls for help and prepared meals, then, as things got worse, joined recovery efforts to help transport people safely out of flooded areas. Deborah Fulgham of Mosaic and Capozelli's longtime advocate didn't need many words to sum up Marcus: "Helping others is just embedded in his soul."