An emergency room nurse from a Des Moines hospital is preparing to go back to the Gulf to help with the aftermath of the latest hurricane. Brenda McGraw of Waukee returned from helping with the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts 11 days ago, and is now ready to head out again. She says it’s a “big mental game” and she prepares by keeping her bags packed all the time so that whenever they tell her she has to go, she is packed and ready to go.
McGraw works at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, but is going south as a member of a Federal Emergency Management Agency team. McGraw says part of the mental game is putting on a game fact to deal with what she calls “austere” conditions. She says, “You’re sweating, you can’t wear your shorts because you have to protect yourself. There’s cockroaches, I saw cockroaches as big as my hand. And you know if you’re a little squeamish on bugs, you know that can work a little on you mentally too you know. And you know, just dangers, they had crocodiles that were displaced. It’s not just humans, it’s animals, snakes, bugs, everything, so you’re battling those conditions.”
McGraw says it’s something you learn to adjust to.She says most of us take for granted what we have until we get into an adverse environment. She says you get thrilled to have a cot to sleep on after sleeping on the floor for eight days.
With all the criticism that came with the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina, McGraw expects things to be a little better with the latest hurricane.
She says, “You have to remember too that a lot of the preparedness for those emergencies, the state and the local governments are extremely important to have those emergency prep plans in place. If they don’t have those emergency plans in place and when they ask for that government assistance it can be hard.” She says the states govern themselves and have their rights and FEMA’s there to assist.
McGraw says FEMA can’t just come in and take over. She says, “If the state and local government has a good handle on what their resources are, what they have available, what they can do, so when they ask for help, then they know exactly how we can help them. If you have a state that’s not as prepared, that can make it kind of tough on everybody.” McGraw says she’ll be working for about two weeks before returning to Iowa.