By Nate Russell, Disaster Program Manager
Mark Mowrey is a retired nurse and spends much of his time with the American Red Cross plying his skills as a Disaster Health Services volunteer.
When disaster struck Mark’s community in southern Humboldt County this week, Mark donned his Red Cross vest and sprung to action.
Shortly after Mark arrived at the shelter, a woman had registered for assistance who was visibly distraught. As Mark observed her talking with the shelter staff, he could see that she was becoming overwhelmed with worry so he did exactly what he did with his patients in his former job as a nurse. He sat down with her and asked her to tell her story.
The 6.4-magnitude earthquake had shaken a pipe free from her water heater and had started to leak water all over her basement. For some, this might be a minor inconvenience and a quick fix, but for a disaster evacuee, there are myriad invisible compounding stressors that can make even the smallest problems seem daunting.
“I’ve done it many times in the ER and in the Red Cross,” Mark said. “Asking people to tell their story relieves some of that pressure that they are feeling. It allows them to vent, to process, and to problem solve.”
The woman was able to start at the beginning and tell Mark about all the factors, large and small, that were contributing to her stress. It all culminated to a broken water heater that she hadn’t the slightest idea how to fix.
“She told me what kind of water heater she had, so I was able to help her figure out what part she needed, and gave her directions to a local hardware store.”
Armed with a plan and a clear path forward, the evacuee’s spirits were visibly raised as she set out from the shelter.
“That’s what I love about being a nurse and what I love being a Red Cross volunteer,” Mark said. “I love helping people find a pathway to help solve their problems. It feels good to help someone else tackle that overwhelming dilemma so they can take back that sense of control and, well, take a shower!”