Disabled Folk in Hurricane Katrina
Dave Reynolds Inclusion Daily Express, August 31st, 2005
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA–While some of those who were caught in the path of Hurricane Katrina did so because they failed to recognize the storm’s danger, it is becoming increasingly clear that thousands were unable to leave because they couldn’t afford to, or had disabilities or existing medical conditions that made evacuating difficult or impossible. Several newspaper, television and radio accounts are telling stories of people with physical disabilities who were trapped on the lower floors of their homes or apartments as the water from the storm surge climbed. Fluffy Sparks, 46, told the Cox News Service that she sat in her wheelchair in her Slidell home, just northeast of New Orleans, as the flood waters rose to her chin. “I prayed like I’ve never prayed in all my life,” Sparks said. “I told God, ‘I can’t believe you’re ready for me now. Don’t let me die in this water here by myself.'” She pulled herself up onto a small table just as the water stopped rising. “It was horrible, and it’s still horrible, but I’m breathing,” said Sparks, who was rescued Tuesday morning. Charlotte Goodwin, 62, who has diabetes, high blood pressure and lupus, managed to escape the flood waters at her New Orleans home. A reporter spoke to Goodwin as she walked toward a shelter, carrying a bag full of medications, but with no drinking water to take the pills. “I’m wondering if I’m going to make it,” she said. Police on a boat picked up 63-year-old Aleck Scallon, who is paraplegic, and set him, his wheelchair, and a companion in a dry spot on an Interstate freeway on-ramp. Unfortunately, the place where they deposited Scallon was surrounded by water. “Where am I going to go?” he asked the Times-Picayune. “They were supposed to pick us up and take us to the (Super)dome.” Many people with disabilities who survived the wind and the floods continued to struggle Wednesday with a general lack of food, clean water, medical supplies, and medications. Most of the hospitals in the area had no power or fresh supplies. Several reports described how many of those initial survivors who were rescued — even those who made it to the “special needs” shelters — later lost their struggle. Some told of people having epileptic seizures out on the open ground. Others told of dead bodies in wheelchairs simply covered with blankets or bed sheets. There was one piece of good news: Twenty-five babies at a makeshift neonatal intensive care unit were airlifted Wednesday from a parking garage roof at a New Orleans hospital and transported safely to other hospitals in the region. Many of the babies were hooked up to battery-powered ventilators to keep them alive. The babies’ parents had been ordered to evacuate and leave their infants behind. By the end of the day, the parents had been told where their children were taken. State officials had no concrete estimates Wednesday, but said that many nursing homes, group homes and other congregate living facilities in the area cannot be saved. Those that were still standing could take months or years to be livable again.
Provided by Leroy F. Moore Jr. On The Outskirts: Race & Disability Consultant email@example.com, www.leroymoore.com www.nmdc.us www.poormagazine.org www.molotovmouths.com