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Abrazo Scottsdale Campus nurse spends two weeks helping Hurricane Harvey victims

Oct 6, 2017

Trudy Thompson RicePHOENIX (Oct. 6, 2017) – When Hurricane Harvey dumped 53 inches of rain on Southeastern Texas, Trudy Thompson Rice’s heart hurt.

Like so many across the country, the Abrazo Scottsdale Campus nurse couldn’t stop thinking about the images she saw on TV. The people drenched by the rain, weary and afraid. The critters, clinging to anything that wasn’t already underwater. 

When the American Red Cross asked for nurse volunteers, Thompson Rice stepped up. Harvey had hit her home state of Texas and she needed to help.

For two weeks, she worked in the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, where the Red Cross was sheltering evacuees from the storm. The night she arrived, 10,000 exhausted people and their pets slept in the shelter. Many came in still wet from the storm. Babies, school kids, moms and dads, elders, homeless and well-to-do.

Thompson Rice had substantial experience helping disaster victims. Prior to joining the Abrazo Scottsdale Campus staff in 2016, Thompson Rice spent six years as a Red Cross chief communications officer based in Phoenix. She had responded to wildfires, hurricanes, snow storms, tornadoes, floods, home fires, mass casualties and explosions.

When she arrived in Houston on Aug. 28, the situation was dire.

“The city’s 911 system was overwhelmed.  The hospitals were full. The streets were impassable due to water and debris. The people and their critters were scared.  And worn out.  They had come to the convention center in dump trucks, fishing boats, fire trucks and helicopters. They had been plucked from their flooded homes by people who came to help,’’ Thompson Rice said.

“Very few had brought much of anything with them. They had the clothes they were wearing, now soaked in flood water.  Their IDs, their phones, their medicines, their wheelchairs and their walkers had either been lost in the desperate journey to dry ground, or they had been left behind as they scrambled into the dump trucks and the boats and helicopters. Families and neighbors and pets had gotten separated and anxiety ran high,’’ she added. 

At the shelter, Thompson Rice danced with fussy babies, bathed cot-bound elders, bartered for the loan of a wheelchair, changed dressings on dog bites, dug through piles of donated clothing and made endless pots of bad coffee. 

Over and over and over again, she listened to flood stories.

“Telling their stories helps people process what has happened to them.  And a lot had happened to every one of the 10,000 people in our shelter,’’ Thompson Rice said.

A Vietnam vet who was struggling with memories brought back by the military cots, the National Guard soldiers, and the chaos asked Thompson Rice to sit and hold his hand. An elderly man in a wheelchair needed a push to get to the restroom in time. So she did both. The veteran helped Thompson Rice push the elder, and they all three talked all the way to the restroom and back to their cots. Then the two sat and talked long into the night. They each waved to Thompson Rice as she left to find herself some supper.

Thompson Rice’s years as a nurse, paramedic, mom served her well during those two weeks in the Red Cross shelter in Houston. 

“I’ve always been handy with a mop, quick with a remedy for a headache or a stab wound, and can settle a fussy baby while talking a cranky old guy into checking his blood sugar before bedtime,’’ she said. 

But the best part?

“I learned a lot. Like how to listen. Really listen. And how to care and be cared for,’’ Thompson Rice said.

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