Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ike was rough.

So my truck is wrecked ... I'm in a new relationship ... My kids just started a new school ... My lawn needs mowed badly... The house bills are due ... The lawn mower is broken again ... The windows need winterized and my living space is destroyed after I get back from Gustav. So what do I do? Yep, I leave on Ike.

This deployment was a sharp contrast to all of the hurry up and wait of the Gustav deployment. We went to work almost immediately after getting to San Antonio. They shipped a few of the strike teams off to Houston to prepare for Ike's landfall and a few were sent further south as well.

25 units (10 of which were mine) were sent to be the first boots on the ground in Galveston. It was the most coveted assignment there was, we were honored to accept the responsibility.

We arrived about 90 minutes after the storm went through and it looked like we stepped out of the USA and into a third world nation. There was no power, cell coverage, water..NOTHING. We found where the city had set up a temporary shelter and got right to work with 300 or so people waiting to get on a bus to San Antonio.

We set up staging at a local high school and within 120 minutes we had assumed control of Galveston EMS operations. Those guys and gals had been working non-stop for several days now and their station was under water. They needed a break to get shit right and we were the people for the job.

FEMA had set us all up with phones that didn't work, Low-Jack that could not track us, GPS units that worked about 60% of the time and 2 way radios that would reach about 1 mile on a sunny day. So we felt well prepared to step into this hornets nest.

For the first 2 days it was non-stop with 911 calls. We ran a 15 truck rotation to try and get the guys some down time but you were lucky to get 45 minutes of sleep before you were woke up by something. Building collapse, fire, looting, MI, entrapment, diabetic emergencies... all of these things became so common that we didn't even bat an eyelash.

There were several USAR and DMAT teams attached with us as well and eventually we started working together as if we had all know eachother for years. It became normal to see buildings smashed and 50 foot boats just sitting on the top of houses. That chest of drawers on top of the 4 story apartment building was just another thing that seemed to belong.

The dead animals in the street began to bother me after a few days, it was stinking to hell. All of the fish that the storm surge brought in were rotting too, you kinda got used to that.

Profiteering assholes were everywhere. Finally one gas station opened and all of us were in some serious need of tobacco. I went in to buy a log or two of Grizzly mint... The sign on the shelf said 1.90 a can, he charged me 5.00 per can. When I pointed to the sign he replied: "That was before the hurricane sir" Well, it was tobacco not diapers so I didn't make too much of a fuss but I still walked out of there knowing I'd been screwed and there was nothing I could do about it. I paid my 50 bucks... and I had my tobacco.

I could sit and write for the next 5 hours of stories and adventures on Galveston Island and never come close to being able to tell you everything. So if there is something in particular you want to know about just leave a comment and I'll be happy to add another post.

As for now... I'm home. Hurricane Kyle doesn't look like he's going to do much so I can rest easy for a little while. It feels good to be home.

I got a new truck ... Things are going great with my girl ... The lawn is being taken care of ... The kids are doing excellent in school ... The bills are paid ... I bought a new mower ... and I plan on cleaning up my crap on Monday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricane Season

I've tried to be better about updating this blog but it always seems as if something interferes with my best intentions.

On the 28th of August our team was deployed to Texas for hurricane relief with Gustav. We got down to the greater San Antonio area and Gustav turned out to be all bust and no balls. That didn't keep FEMA from running our asses off for the better part of 10 days though. Returning patients to nursing facilities and private residences.

We got home last Sunday. All of us were exhausted and glad to be home. My children were missing daddy badly and I'm still culturing this new relationship with a great gal so I had priorities I had to deal with that didn't include a hurricane that caused just about ZERO damage on US soil.

Monday morning rolls around I kiss the girl and then my phone goes off. It's the boss telling me to mobilize the team again and this time add 2 more units so we can have 2 complete strike teams. Looks like hurricane IKE is not playing nice in the sandbox and we are heading back to Texas either that night or the following morning.

I drag my ass away from the girl and get dressed. She agrees to hang out with me for the day so we can at least have some semblance of together time before I'm gone for 10 more days. We hit Walmart so I can buy everything I had neglected to buy for the first trip.. (that was 140 bucks) and then we roll on over to the station so I can see what kind of damage I can cause there.

My guys had everything under control at the station, all there was for me to do was finalize some paperwork and arrange for a few replacement members. Almost everyone who deployed for Gustav wanted to deploy for IKE too... I think it was something about the being paid for 24 hours a day 7 days a week that enticed them... I dunno.

Baby girl borrows my truck so she can scoot out and get a shower... That's where it got interesting.

The station phone rings... they holler for me and tell me it's her. Hmmm... why wouldn't she call my cell phone. I knew something was wrong.

Sure enough she was puttering along minding her own business when WHAMO she got smoked by a laundry truck. Totaled my truck.

A buddy of mine was the responding officer and he called to tell me what had happened.

COP: Hey, where is your insurance card man
Me: Probably at home on my desk.. just use the old one it's the same info
Me: How is the girl?
COP: She is fine
Me: Ok, that's cool... Can the truck be driven the 2 blocks back to the station
COP: Maybe..ya, I think she said she's taking it to the station. It's in pretty bad shape...
Me: I don't care... at 35 years old it's one hell of a lot easier for me to find a 3000 dollar truck than another 20 year old girlfriend
COP: (laughing) she is fine
Me: Thanks

She gets back to the station a little sore but not complaining of anything major. Her biggest fear is that one of my units would have responded to the call and called me before she had the chance to. I told her it was just the truck... had she wrecked the motorcycle then we might have had an issue.

Meanwhile back in the hurricane deployment stage we are still short 2 units and 3 sets of ALS gear. We don't want to send any basic crews because they are not billed the same as ALS crews. If we send all ALS crews obviously the paycheck is MUCH larger. So I'm in the mad scramble to get everything ready. We only have 24 hours from the time of being activated to get to Texas and check in and it's a LONG run for us.

That night she was heading home and stated that she was going to make a trip to the ER to just get checked out.. her neck was sore and she didn't want to be FUBAR the next morning. I took a couple sleeping pills and forced myself to go to bed early so I'd be ready when the deployment call cam in in the morning. She ended up back at my house later that evening although i couldn't tell you when.. I noticed something soft that smelled nice in the morning and that's the first time I knew she was there.

She heads off to have breakfast with her father and his friends and I head into the station with the rookie and all of our gear. No call yet and everything is set on my end so I decide to face my fears and go have breakfast with her and her Father.

It was not nearly as bad as I had imagined. The conversation was light and everyone was cutting up. They were teasing her pretty bad about wrecking the truck the day prior and my guys were just happy to have me buying them breakfast. We finished our meal barely and my phone rings... Get your team and head for Texas.

We just about kill ourselves getting to Texas in time but here I sit in a parking lot in Houston after being in San Antonio all day yesterday. I know the score now from the Gustav deployment and besides missing baby girl and the boys I'm ok with the world at large.

My guys want to go, they are pumped up on stale biscuits and coffee..they want to work and I keep telling all of them that it takes time. FEMA moves at their own pace and things don't happen on "Paramedic Time"

We are here to help.. waiting on a hurricane that is predicted to be pretty bad. As of right now though we sit and wait. I think I hear the porta-john calling my name. That MRE I ate yesterday is about to be re-visted and I don't think it's going to be plesant.

I'll write more as soon as I can.