By Jane Dean, Red Cross Volunteer
Antonio was with his wife Rosalyn and his 19 year old son when Hurricane Harvey struck. There was not much time to get out as the flood water came so quickly. Antonio walked with a prominent limp and had considerable back pain. He needed crutches to get around. The family had a lot of animals including two dogs, three cats and three turtles. At first the water was only up to their knees. Rosalyn and their son grabbed the animals and because their hands were full with the pets, they were unable to get any belongings. They forgot one turtle so went back for it. As the others waited, by the time they got the other turtle, the water was now up to their waist. Antonio struggled to ambulate with his crutches, with his wife and son trying to help carrying all the animals, to get out to the area near the end of the street where they could see boats. This took them about an hour. As they struggled along, the nearer they got to the boats, waves began to form. The waves from the boats were strong, and came over Antonio’s head, knocking his glasses off. As he tried to reach out to grab them, he was still holding his crutches and he inadvertently pushed them further away.
Eventually, Antonio and his family were pulled onto the boats and evacuated to safety. They were out of their house for a few days, but eventually were able to return home. In the end, they had about two inches of water in their home and had to pull all the carpets up. They couldn’t afford to take out the dry wall, and they hope it was cleaned enough not to cause them a problem down the line. Despite their good thoughts, Antonio remains worried that this might cause them problems in the future.
Antonio talked to me about the food trucks. He was so grateful to the Red Cross for coming every day for a week with meals. They looked forward to it because it was their only means of a hot meal. They had no power, and all the food in their refrigerator had gone bad. They had dry cereal that they could eat and a jar of peanut butter. They would all take a spoonful of peanut butter from the jar and share that way. He could not thank Red Cross enough for feeding them and their neighbors during their time of great need.
When Antonio knew the floods were coming, he and his family tried to prepare by getting some furniture into his truck. He usually keeps his wheelchair in the truck, but to make room for items from the house, he put his wheelchair on its side in the garage. Due to the flood water coming up from the foundation, the wheelchair, along with his wife’s medical equipment, got destroyed.
As Health Services volunteers, we went out to visit the family and were able to assist by giving them a voucher to replace Antonio’s eye glasses, and funds to replace the medical equipment. It was only in passing that Antonio told us about his wheelchair being destroyed. When we got approval from our supervisors at the Red Cross to help with that, Antonio declined the offer. He said he could walk, and to save the chair for someone who needed it more. After seeing the wheelchair, it was clear he needed help. Since the Red Cross had received donations of wheelchairs and walkers, and we were able to make a return trip to his home and give him a “gently used” wheelchair. He was so very grateful.
It was such a humbling experience to meet Antonio and his wife Rosalyn. Two people who didn’t have much, lost their necessities and yet, asked for nothing. I am honored to have met Antonio and his wife Rosalyn, and equally as honored to have been a part of the compassionate Disaster Health Services Team on the second visit to Antonio’s home.