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Weathering the Storm: Volunteer RNs’ Roles Critical After Mudslides

As two American Red Cross volunteers attested after mudslides tormented Los Angeles County, being a nurse is sometimes less about critical care and more about grace amid “organized chaos.”

A downpour of rain began in early February, and a mandatory evacuation was ordered — causing hundreds of residents to flee from their homes, according to a report by the Disaster News Network.

While many residents had places to go, others did not. That’s where Betty Finch, RN, stepped in. A Red Cross volunteer, Finch says she received an e-mail announcing a call for volunteers from the San Gabriel-Pomona and the Glendale-Crescenta chapters when mudslides were anticipated. With the disaster-relief efforts of Hurricane Katrina under her belt, Finch was confident and eager to help.

After working a 12-hour shift Feb. 9 at and evacuation shelter at Holy Redeemer Parish in Glendale, Finch said, “the process improves every time a crisis happens.”

Finch said about 100 residents showed up at the shelter for assistance. Much of her time was spent problem solving and organizing medications for those she saw.

“People get caught off-guard at times,” she said as she recalled an elderly man who needed assistance. “The gentleman had just been released from the hospital after suffering from pneumonia and wasn’t able to return to his home. He also didn’t have any medications that he needed with him. The challenge is to talk to them and figure out how to help.”

Finch eventually tracked down the correct prescription by putting the patient in touch with his physician and pharmacy. Even though the man was not in need of critical care, Finch said, “the nurse’s role in this event becomes rather critical. You are drained, because you’re constantly trying to problem solve. But it’s rewarding, and you feel like you’re getting results. You’re causing peace of mind and helping them move forward.”

Sue Rothhammer, RN

Lead Nurse Sue Rothhammer, RN, has volunteered with the Glendale-Crescenta Valley chapter of the Red Cross for 18 years and continues to believe in the power of evacuation shelters.

“Absolutely, being able to help someone is the most important part of volunteering. It may not be a national disaster, on a big level, but it’s a disaster in someone’s life.”

Rothhammer says several shelters were open to residents in the area while rain continued to fall.

She is on call for the Red Cross 24/7, and has seen residents evacuated for house fires, gas leaks and events in which road closures were enforced.

“We respond to anybody’s need. If you’ve lost all your tools for your trade, we help with that. Nurses help replace medications, glasses, dentures. We help get them back on their feet.”

A passion for the Red Cross runs in her family, Rothhammer adds.

“It’s in my blood. My mother did some [Red Cross] work, and my grandmother volunteered in the 1930s, knitting washcloths for World War I soldiers.”

Her daughter Kate, who now is 25, also began volunteering when she was 8.

“Volunteers are always loved and needed, and your work blends with your family life. It also puts your own problems in perspective.”

By | 2020-04-15T14:38:55-04:00 March 8th, 2010|Categories: Regional, West|0 Comments

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