By Amy Rakowczyk
Today I woke up groggy after a night of restless sleep. I tossed and turned thinking about this storm – what has happened and what is yet to come. The devastation is unfathomable and it’s not even over yet.
I live in Galveston, TX and my husband is PGY-2 Family Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). I have grown to absolutely love the people, culture, and the medical community here. Our group of medical families is strong and we have adopted each other like family. I am so incredibly grateful for these friends, especially as we go through this heartbreaking and challenging time together.
Last week when we heard that Hurricane Harvey was coming, it looked like Galveston would be a target. It has been in the past with storms such as Hurricane Ike in 2008. Many people who work in Galveston choose not to live on the island because of the threat of storms. The mainland is supposed to be the safer option. Not this time.
Last Thursday, I debated the idea of evacuating. Harvey was expected to make landfall on Friday evening. I felt like Galveston “would be fine,” but my husband was currently on hospital service and was ordered to remain at the hospital under “emergency operations.” I was to be on my own with our two young children and even though things might be fine, the possibility of what could go wrong was too much for us to risk. If our home started to flood, there was no way he could leave the hospital to help us. We decided that I would drive out in the morning to a relative’s home in Austin, TX. I left the island having last seen my husband on Thursday when we dropped by the hospital for a 10-minute “hello.”
My friends that live on the mainland were certain that they would fair better than the island, and with good reason. No one could have predicted how this storm ended up traveling. Officials and weather specialists made their best guesses as to where the storm would hit and what the towns would need to do to prepare. There were very few evacuation orders in our area, so people were making the best decisions for their families that they could.
Most of my Galveston friends decided to evacuate the island and we dispersed all over Texas to stay with family and friends. On early Friday morning, I was one of the last of my group of medical spouses to leave the island, and I drove away in a downpour of rain and lightening flashing through the sky. It was ominous and already felt scary.
We all know what happened next. Harvey arrived and destroyed. To our surprise, our little Galveston Island has been largely okay – just some flooding and power outages here and there. I am safe up in Austin but am unable to get home due to the freeways through Houston being completely flooded. I have no idea when I will be able to return home, especially with the possibly of MORE rain coming to the area in the next few days.
Many of our friends that live in Southern Houston had to evacuate to other places in the city. The stories are devastating. It’s heartbreaking to hear of strangers being rescued by boats from rooftops; it’s another thing when people you see everyday are the ones in that situation. Things get personal and very real, very fast.
Some of the medical spouses and families I know evacuated before the storm like me and are waiting to return home. Some have their spouses with them, others have spouses at the hospital. The hospitals are greatly understaffed and there are not enough doctors to relieve each other so they can get breaks. For many doctors at the hospitals right now, it’s long, long shifts with no end in sight.
Other friends are trapped in their homes due to flooded streets. Some have power, while others don’t. A few friends and residents we know have been rescued from their rooftops with babies and animals in tow. They have lost their homes and all their possessions, including vehicles.
Like me, I’m sure you are wondering what you can do to help. Right now, here are some options:
• Donate. People are still being rescued and evacuated. There is a mind-blowing amount of recovery that needs to happen after this storm has completely passed. Organizations mostly need monetary support, as well as some basic essentials like food, clean water, baby and pet supplies. Please consider giving what you can.
- See this list on Ways You Can Help. Choose an organization or cause that most speaks to you.
- If you want to specifically help female spouses in our medical community, consider donating to the Lives of Doctors Wives Foundation. They are raising funds to help spouses that have emergency requests.
• Connect with family and friends that are affected. Offer your thoughts, prayers, and support. It’s amazing how much reaching out can help people in such a difficult situation.
• Remember that this situation will go on long after the storm rolls away. Compassion, donations, and understanding will be needed for months and years to come.
Please continue to keep Texans in your mind and hearts, and please help in whatever way calls to you. May we all be safe and recover from this tragedy together, as a unified community.
About the Author
Amy Rakowczyk is a medical spouse, mother, writer, singer, and former voice instructor. She currently resides in Galveston, TX with her husband and two young daughters. She enjoys helping other spouses navigate the world of medicine and actively participates in support groups and activities. Her husband is a Family Medicine resident at UTMB Galveston and did his medical training at The Ohio State University.