Red Cross Nurses Kelly Osbun and Louise O’Donnell at a Staff Wellness station in Houston. Photo credit: Mallory Scheve/American Red Cross

Story by Elizabeth Morse
For American Red Cross volunteer Kelly Ausbun, traveling to Houston to help those affected by the recent floods is a labor of love. Kelly, a Licensed Practical Nurse, is working in Disaster Health Services, assisting clients with their disaster-related health needs. These include services such as replacing medications and health equipment lost in the floods.

“Often people are overwhelmed with everything they are experiencing,” Kelly comments. “In many cases. we serve as advocates, helping clients contact their insurance providers to expedite replacement. Sometimes, we’re just there to provide a shoulder for them to cry on.”

Kelly, a volunteer with the Red Cross Arizona, New Mexico and El Paso Region, lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She has deployed to twenty disasters.

Nurse Practitioner Louise O’Donnell is on her first deployment with the Red Cross. Louise is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It has been amazing watching people come from all over the country with different backgrounds and different ways of doing things, but they are all able to work together to meet the needs of those we’re serving.” says Louise.

Working in one of the shelters, Louise was especially moved by one young shelter resident who is paralyzed and using a wheelchair. The cushion for his wheelchair was lost in the flood. As a result, he developed a pressure sore.

Using her knowledge and contacts, Louise found a replacement chair cushion. She also obtained an alternating air pressure pad for his cot at the shelter. “This is why I’m here,” she explains. “Because of the work I do in my real job, I was aware of the resources to help get him what he needed.”

Louise was touched by the support a young mother and her two children, 18 months and three weeks old, were receiving from the Red Cross and from the church members at the shelter. “These people have rallied around this mom and her kids to ensure she has everything she needs. It is amazing to see the support she is receiving.”

In addition to taking care of clients, Disaster Health Services keeps an eye on Red Cross workers. “So many of our volunteers are so dedicated to serving the clients, they sometimes forget to take care of themselves,” Kelly remarks. “Disaster Health Services helps to take care of them and make sure they are caring for themselves.”