Responding to Devastation


As I sit down to write this post I am struggling to find words to address the sadness and devastation we have seen.  Over the past few months, we as a nation have been hit hard with so many overwhelming disastrous events.  As nurses, we participate in fire drills, disaster drills and mass casualty drills.  I don’t believe there is a drill that can prepare your mind and your heart for the amount of devastation that comes with those events.

When a disaster strikes in an area of the nation we see it and our hearts go out to those affected.  We donate to the cause by giving money, supplies, food, clothes and time as we feel called to do.  When that disaster strikes in your backyard there are no words to describe the impact on you and your feelings.  Some say those first responders are now suffering from PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome).


After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisana the call went out for more nurses.  The response was overwhelming in the numbers that raised a hand to go and help. Travel Nurse agencies began taking applications of those who could commit to travel and stay for a period of time in places where they needed help.  At one point the governor and nursing board even waived the Licensing  requirement for that state since it was in a state of emergency.

Nurses not only responded to serve in the hospitals they even got out and helped with clean up for collegues who were affected.  As nurses that is what we do, roll up our sleeves and do whatever it takes.

More devastation

Not even a month later we again were hit with another hurricane, Irma.  She hit Florida and the call went out again for more nurses.  The governor put out the call for 1000 nurses and more than 2500 responded.

The devastation to property was massive. I had family in the path of Irma who fortunately only had minor property damage.   Fortunately few lives were lost and some of those resulted as an after effect of not having power.  Sadly elderly persons living in a residential care facility died from heat exposure due to no air conditioning in very hot and humid temperatures.  As nurses this is hard to comprehend since it might have been prevented.

Maria in Puerto Rico

When Maria followed Irma and hit Puerto Rico it seemed almost more than we could deal with as first responders.  Since it is an island and difficult to get there with airports and ports destroyed response seemed to be slow.  I watched with disbelief a hospital with the outside walls completely gone and no generator.  Yet again we came together as a nation and responded, but at what cost?

As nurses and first responders we just keep forging forward, saving lives and trying to put lives back together.  The effect is almost the same as if we were serving is a war.

Firestorm fire-storm

As if it weren’t bad enough that wind and rain destroyed lives and property, now we are watching a wall of fire destroy everything in its path. As I sit here looking out my window at a clear bright sunny fall day,  my heart is heavy.  The area that has been

As I sit here looking out my window at a clear bright sunny fall day,  my heart is heavy.  The area that has been in the news over the past few days is a town where I raised my children and lived for nearly 30 years.  I worked as a nurse in several diferent specialties in the county.  My son his wife and my grandson live in this town.  I have so many friends who have now lost everything.  Many of them the only thing that stands is a chimney.  Their pets died or are missing and for many they have no place to stay.

Two of the main hospitals in the area were evacuated.  The smoke and ash are so thick that people are suffering from respiratory symptoms.  Thousands are displaced and at least a hundred are missing.  Already 23 deaths reported.  Many of the nurses and first responders working to save lives and property  have lost everything while they responded to the needs of those in the area.  Our resources are being taxed like never before.

How to Help

Our initial response as nurses is to go there and work in a facility and care for the sick and injured.  In this situation that is not the best way to help.  My son who lives in Santa Rosa has been blessed in that his home has not at this point been affected.  He did evacuate to his mother and father-in-laws home further outside of the area.  Bryan is a business owner in the area and has clients and other businesses owners that have been affected.  Due to his contacts and his ability with social medial he wanted to use his talents to help.

To get an idea of how wide spread this fire has reached check out this video from ABC News7 of Santa Rosa and the surrounding area.  They continue to have high winds and the conditions for more fires is high.  Bryan is trying to coordinate donations to help those who need it most.  If you feel you can give here is the link to the Santa Rosa gofundme page.

Every little bit that is donated will help.  I know that there have been so many people in need that financial resourses have been stretched.  We as a nation and especially as nurses give generously to those in need.


I recenlty communicated with a nurse on the Wandering Nurse FB page who was heading to Santa Rosa to work at one of the major hospitals.  She wanted to know what the area was like.  I hope she is safe and that she is providing so much help in this time of need.  If you are working in one of the devastated areas stay safe.

Let us hear from you and what it has been like to respond to such devastating events.


Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a retired RN and US Army Nurse Major. She has over 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and once to South Korea. Her medical training began during the Vietnam era when trained as an army medic. She went on to train as an OR tech and then as a LVN/LPN. She completed nursing school and was direct commissioned into the reserve Army Nurse Corp. nurse. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and working in other medical facilities. During her career she spent years as an OR nurse, Occupational Health Nurse, Hospice Nurse, Forensic Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as being a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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