Friday, May 22, 2009
By Theresa Yamasaki - Staff Nurse
Hawaii Health Plan - Moanalua
Sadly, day 5 has arrived. We started early with a trip to Fredrick Douglass High School in the Upper 9th Ward, to deliver the easels that were made for the art students earlier this week. This high school flooded during Hurricane Katrina and was featured in the documentary "Trouble in Water." The Project Managers and I couldn't wait to get to the school because last year we had built a 2000 sq foot deck for the seniors at the school. The deck had become a labor of love and we wanted to see how it fared after Hurricane Gustav, which destroyed a greenhouse we had built there too, and to share it with our new teammates. When we finally got to go and stand on it in the courtyard, I found myself becoming emotional. It truly hit me that what we do on these Kaiser trips matters. That deck matters to the students, young men and women who are completing their high school education under impossible circumstances. It also mattered to us, that we could give them a nice place to have lunch that didn't consist of a pit of mud in a courtyard. I'm glad to report that the deck remains beautiful—just like the staff and students who continue to persevere and succeed at F.D.H.S.
My team then went on to do our next job...the infamous MOLD. To sum up the mold remediation experience honestly...mold removal sucks!! It's grueling, it's tedious, it's painstaking, its emotionally and physically draining, its hot, its sweaty, it seems never-ending….and its an important step in getting someone back into their home and back to their pre-Katrina lives. Every member of our team chose to return for day 3 and the HONO team was flabbergasted by this fact. Though our group is bubbly and enthusiastic, maybe breathing our own CO2 through a mask for hours at a time had addled our brains. We hit the mold job with the usual high energy as the past two mornings, but I began to see symptoms that The Mold was winning its battle against our spirit of courage. Fatigue, both mental and physical, was setting in and I was becoming a casualty.
As I neared my own physical and mental boiling point, I decided to try to encourage myself by remembering why I was here- the people of New Orleans. Who felt more hot and sweaty - me or the people here who had to stand on their rooftops for days waiting for rescue? Who felt more tired and thirsty—me or the single mother who waited for days outside the Convention Center for a bottle of water for her children? Who felt more claustrophobic - me or the woman we met last year who floated in her refrigerator for 3 days when her house took on 9 feet of water. The result = "It's not about me." This thought and the hugs from my Team Moldmates made completion of this never-ending task a reality.
This has been my 3rd tour with Kaiser in the Gulf and one of the things that amaze me most is how each team becomes like family after knowing each other for only 5 days. I finally think I've figured it out. How do 30 strangers from all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicities, job descriptions etc. come together and accomplish what we do with such love and fun? We are of the same heart. A heart of compassion, service and humanity. Our hearts are the core of who we are the rest is just circumstances. I like to look at it as each team having a heart like a flower— beautiful, unfolding, fragrant and precious. I love that Kaiser Permanente has committed to continue to allow us to be the blossoms that will string a lei of aloha around the wonderful people of the U.S. Gulf Coast.
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