Friday, September 16, 2005


The Red Cross has Humvees??

I won’t soon forget the look on Marty Mulcahey’s face when I told him that there was a group of Humvee’s (Hummer H1’s) in Mississippi, looking for a way to link up with the Red Cross on the coast. Marty seems to be something of a regional director of the Red Cross’ Katrina effort, and Myhanh and I met with him a few days ago; the meeting was facilitated by Biloxi’s fire chief, and another example of something happening just because we were there and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

We had gotten that ‘no’ from someone at the local level, who didn’t quite understand what we were proposing. Marty was much more responsive, and we hoped he would be able to make it happen.
Well, to tell the truth, we didn’t quite know ourselves what we were proposing. We had been involved in a lot of phone calls between David in Atlanta with HOPE (Hummer Owners Prepared for Emergency), Chip Mewell of the Atlanta fire department, and several Red Cross folks. Marty finally did what it took to make things happen, and the next morning Myhanh and I had ‘our own’ Humvee, owned and driven by Kim Stebbens, a Robert Redford look-alike.

Kim is a self-described refugee from a high-tech company who lives most of the year on a boat in the Caribbean, the rest in Seattle. He drove his H1 from Seattle to meet up with other HOPE vehicles in Picayune, Mississippi. They finished up their work of distributing supplies there a week early, and were freed up for another assignment.
The drawback of being associated with a very large organization is, of course, bureaucracy.

In relative terms, the approval for getting the HOPE Hummers linked up with the Red Cross in this area came in record time. For us, it meant a day of waiting around the Red Cross command center in Gulfport. The advantage is that once the bureaucracy does move, it has lots of resources to make available.

I never knew this before about the Red Cross shelters and aid stations in disaster areas: they readily provide food, water, and first aid. But physicians cannot practice medicine in a Red Cross facility; and nurses cannot do anything beyond giving out bandages. Liability is the problem, of course. In this emergency, however, it would appear that the governor’s declaration of emergency and state Good Samaritan laws ought to allow us to provide good faith emergency care if we are licensed in another state.
So I was told that I could provide medical care ‘adjacent to’ a Red Cross facility, but not as part of that facility.

Is Red Cross rethinking this? Maybe. The next morning when Myhanh and I returned to the Red Cross command post (left), the ‘medical lead’, Gary Iley, seemed to be singing a different tune. He had lost many of his volunteer nurses. Now he and Caryn Abbott, the lead nurse, were talking about using the newly-acquired Humvees (by now I think seven or eight of them) to take nurses door to door to give tetanus shots, do assessments, and get people to medical care facilities as needed. He was talking about ‘taking the Red Cross response to a new level’. Caryn was now asking me to go out to assess the situation in Waveland, one of the hardest hit communities. Gary is trying to find nurses who can come for a week or so over the next couple of months.

Biloxi Regional has a glut of RN volunteers from out of state who are eager to get out in the field to be more useful. We called them in response to Gary’s request, and they also came to the Gulfport Red Cross facility to help out. They went out as requested into a community in their Ford Explorer. But I heard later they had been kicked out by the Sheriff’s office because they didn’t have the proper credentials. It seems like we’re still getting some wires crossed.

Meanwhile, in Kim Stebbens’ Humvee with a Red Cross on the side, we were going anywhere we wanted. We did take advantage of this to see some of the devastated areas of Long Beach and Bay St. Louis.

In Long Beach, several miles of that long beach are strewn with the wreckage of beautiful homes, mixed with container trailers thrown about like matchsticks; sometimes a trailer frame wrapped around a lamppost or in some other grotesque position.

We later saw the barge that was probably carrying all those containers; like the casino barges in Biloxi, it had been cast up on shore, smashing homes in the way.

It may seem if you’ve seen one picture of the hurricane you’ve seen them all—but you have to imagine putting those pictures together one after the other, block after block, mile after mile, town after town.
Here's another huge casino barge at the west end of Long Beach, cast up on shore. Now it's being cut apart.

It really is a force beyond our comprehension. Next post I’ll show you what happened to the hospital in this town of Bay St. Louis, and what is taking its place now.
Here's Myhanh checking in with hubby from the comfort of our air-conditioned Humvee. Thank God for cell phones!
Link: Mudville Gazette

Good post Doc. Really enjoying your blog. You are all doing good work.

By the way, your link to Mudville is not working. You have an extra HTTP:// at the beginning of the link.

I once worked in a large fundraising department for The Salvation Army. We often received letters from WWII vets letting us know that they were remembering us in their wills and not the Red Cross. Why? As the soldiers came off the battlefield, The Red Cross charged the men for coffee and donuts. The Salvation Army gave the men free coffee and donuts.
My father was a WWII vet, and he always gave to Salvation Army and never to Red Cross. During WWII, Red Cross had advertised a program where it supposedly would give loans to servicemen with family needs. His father died, and he applied for a loan to come back for the funeral. They gave him a long run-around, demanded assignment of his salary, imposed more conditions. Finally his company loan shark said to hell with them and gave him an interest free loan. As he said, when the loan shark is a better person than a charitable group, you know all you need to know.

Then a friend of mine died of leukemia some years ago. We couldn't donate blood fast enough for him, and his "account" fell into arears. After he died, RC announced that once your blood account is in arrears, they charge 2x the amount (and the amount today is over $200/pint). They were going to put a claim against his estate for the money.

I'll always donate to Salvation Army, never to Red Cross.
I never give to the Red Cross because they have never recognized the Mogen David (the Jewish red cross) even though they recognize the Red Crescent.
Dr. Tillinghast,

I remember the day that I met you and Myhanh in the conference room at the Biloxi City Hall. I was meeting with the Emergency Coordinator on another matter when the both of you were escorted into the room. I believe I was with the Superintendent of schools discussing shelter issues.

I am happy to have had the chance to complete the circle with HOPE and get you "on the road" to helping others. I had a wonderful experience during my three weeks with the American Red Cross in the Mississippi Gulf region and am happy to have had the chance to help so many in need and to cross paths with you.

I believe the American Red Cross has done a wonderful job over the past several weeks, and over the past several decades, to provide humanitarian aid to those in need. I am proud to have been a part of those efforts and will continue my association with the American Red Cross for years to come.

With regards,
Marty Mulcahey
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