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Lora York gives out medications for skin and respiratory infections, while a Filipino police officer, at right, provides security. Photo by Jack Crosbie.
For RN couple, their relationship is one disaster after another
After nine days of disaster response work in the Philippines, Dave and Lora York returned home to Puyallup for some downtime before they return to work as RN’s in the Emergency Department at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital.
The Yorks won’t soon forget the destruction they saw and the stories they heard about the typhoon that has killed more than 5,000 people.
They want to make sure other people don't forget, either.
“You come home and watch the news, and it’s gone,” Lora said. “It’s not even being mentioned anymore. Out of sight, out of mind.”
Volunteering with EMPACT Northwest, Dave and Lora flew out of Sea-Tac at 1 a.m. Monday, Nov. 11, just days after the storm. Their six-person group, Team One, returned home Nov. 20, replaced in the Philippines by EMPACT Northwest's Team Two, which includes Mallory Wall-Tweten, a clinical research coordinator with MultiCare’s Institute for Research & Innovation.
On the ground in the Philippines, Team One's top priority was assessment, as well as an initial goal of search and rescue. By the time they flew from Manila to the town of Tacloban, the work had shifted to body recovery.
“We weren’t planning on being a recovery team,” Lora said. “In some cases, we were the first team that anyone had seen. We had to re-evaluate and adjust.”
Dave and Lora met in 2004, while responding to the Indian Ocean tsunami with a team from Good Samaritan Hospital. Even though they both worked at the same hospital, they worked opposite shifts on opposite weekends in different departments, so they’d never met until the tsunami. They married in 2006. Since then, they’ve responded to the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, and have made medical trips to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
“Nine years after that disaster, here we are,” Lora said. “We feel compelled to continue that story, and it’s our way of giving back. It’s who we are. It’s what we do.”
Lora and Dave credited their leaders at Good Samaritan, and their co-workers who filled in while they were away.
“Without them, we couldn’t do things like this,” Dave said. “I know they have our backs and support us.”
“We do work with a really great team – our docs, our techs and our nurses,” Lora said.
How to help: www.empactnorthwest.org
On the ground in the Philippines, locals told them stories about the typhoon. The storm surge was more than 20 feet high. The waves came three times, and washed people out to sea. Winds averaged 170 miles per hour, with gusts of 230. Metal roofs wrapped around trees. One man tied himself to a palm tree to survive.
“I knew it was bad, but I didn’t realize it was that bad,” Lora said. “It was worse than I expected. The magnitude is overwhelming.”
“In the Philippines, typhoons are relatively common, but this one took villages completely off the map,” Dave said. “The death toll is going to be immense.”
Dave explained that tsunamis usually make a piles of debris that look like driftwood, but the combined wind and waves from the typhoon flattened all the boards and timber in the same direction, like the trees after the Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980.
“You start walking along these boards, and you realize you’re on top of the house, looking down inside,” Dave said. “And there might be a car under the house.”
Transportation and security were not immediately available, so they went to work moving cars that blocked doorways and shoveling debris out of the street.
EMPACT Northwest on Facebook: www.facebook.com/EMPACTNorthwest
“Anywhere you looked, there was something to do,” Dave said.
Dave and Lora treated people for skin wounds and respiratory problems from aspirating the seawater. The most severely wounded residents made it to the only open hospital in Tacloban, which was functioning at about 20 percent capacity. On the streets, Dave and Lora noticed people’s wounds were starting to get infected, and they worry about dysentery and cholera from the lack of clean water and poor sanitation.
“We would come across families, and notice their gaping skin wounds and take care of them,” Lora said.
Their experience from working in the Emergency Department helped.
“We’re always taking care of people with an emergency need,” Lora said. “Now the natural disaster makes it more complicated.”
They met a man named Felix who gave them the keys to his truck so they could extend their efforts beyond Tacloban.
“He said, ‘You’re here to help us. Have it back by 4,” Dave said. “He showed true compassion and generosity.”
“When they had nothing, they gave us everything, and that was very humbling,” Lora said. “They would get up and stand and offer us their chair. It was truly an honor to be a part of this.”
As Dave and Lora’s team left one village, the residents waved goodbye and wished them a merry Christmas.
“It was something they could look forward to, because they’ve been through such turmoil and their present circumstances are so depressing,” Lora said. “It brings hope.”
On the palm trees that had weathered the storm, Dave noticed a sign resiliency.
“Ten days out, and they were already putting on new leaves."
Posted on Nov 22, 2013 in