Emergency Response to Hurricane Michael

by International Medical Corps
Emergency Response to Hurricane Michael
Dennis smiling after receiving his new belt.
Dennis smiling after receiving his new belt.

Thanks to the support of the GlobalGiving community and other donors, International Medical Corps enabled access for some 74,300 people at seven locations to relief and recovery. Following Hurricane Michael, our teams provided a total of 4,000 health and dental consultations through mobile medical units and temporary shelters; trained 135 participants on post-recovery resiliency; and distributed nearly 6,000 hygiene and wound-care kits to health facilities. These “kits” included household cleaning and personal hygiene supplies, bandages and other basic items.

To continue supporting International Medical Corps and our GlobalGiving projects, please visit our “Emergency Response to the Ebola Outbreak in DRC.” The second largest Ebola outbreak in history, with more than 2,320 suspected or confirmed cases, has officially crossed international borders into Uganda. Your support is urgently needed to help alleviate the crisis.


The Importance of Compassion in Emergency Response

Sitting up in a hospital bed at an intermediate healthcare center north of Tampa, proudly showing off his new defibrillation belt, Dennis knows he’s lucky to be alive after the most tumultuous eight days of his life.

Under the care of an International Medical Corps’ emergency response team that included two physicians and 15 nurses, the 63-year-old electrician was one of 36 people with intermediate healthcare needs who were brought to the center after being evacuated from some of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018.

His journey there included being trapped for two days inside his Panama City mobile home partially buried under fallen trees, without food or water, with no cell phone coverage to call for help, and no power to operate his oxygen tank or charge his defibrillation belt. He admitted that there were moments when he was unsure whether he’d make it out alive.

In the excitement of his chaotic, emotional discovery and rescue, Etheridge left his defibrillation belt behind on the couch of his mobile home. Worn by those suffering from heart problems, the belt produces an electric shock that corrects a potentially life-threatening arrhythmic heartbeat. With International Medical Corps’ help, he now has a new belt — and he was happy to show it off.

Like others at the center, he was happy about the care he’d received from the International Medical Corps staff and volunteers since arriving at the center.

“Fantastic,” he said with a grin. “They’ve [International Medical Corps] come from all over this country — from California, from Arizona, from Oregon, from everywhere, just to help us here. I can’t believe they would care about us that much. The compassion they’ve shown is amazing.”

International Medical Corps volunteer physician Carolyn, who headed the team of eight nurses during five 12-hour shifts at the center, noted that it is important for medical staff to provide more than medical care. They also have to keep in mind what the evacuees have been through, and to acknowledge the severity of their experience.

Carolyn said that when working with patients whose lives have been turned upside down, “sometimes a simple hug will do more than medication.” Volunteer nurse Candice added, “The most important thing is being there for these people who have lost everything. Just giving kindness can help.”

Transporting survivors for intermediate care.
Transporting survivors for intermediate care.
Our volunteers at the intermediate care shelter.
Our volunteers at the intermediate care shelter.
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PanCare Health Center using our temporary shelters
PanCare Health Center using our temporary shelters

On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael struck the Florida panhandle with 155 mph winds and inflicted damage from Florida to Virginia. International Medical Corps worked with organizations like PanCare Health Network to provide healthcare services in Florida.

PanCare Health Network serves vulnerable populations at affordable prices. Sean, the Regional Operations Manager for Florida’s PanCare Health Network, said that nobody expected Hurricane Michael to be so severe: “Jackson County has never seen in recorded history anything like this type of devastation—ever… So, we had lots of folks who survived the storm, but were displaced post-storm.”

An estimated 80% of the PanCare patient population was affected by the storm, and the organization suffered nearly complete damage at two of their health facilities, in Marianna and Panama City.

With support from FedEx and AbbVie, and the GlobalGiving community, we deployed five emergency field hospital’s shelters — with three still on the ground in Florida — so that PanCare’s doctors, nurses and medical staff in Marianna and Panama City could continue to provide health and dental care for those most in need.

“We just want to make sure people get seen, people get taken care of. Because when they’re worried about everything else, they shouldn’t need to worry about, ‘I’m out of insulin, or I’m out of blood pressure medicine, or I have this cut that looks infected’” Sean tells us. “What we’re trying to do is… take care of these people. Try to keep our chins up… It’s tough” he explains.

A lot of people have lost their jobs and money – they cannot afford a doctor or dentist. “They’re so stressed out about everything,” Ashley, another PanCare staff member explains. “Their house is gone, their car is gone… I had a lady whose cat died during the storm and she’s just crying. Even if you’re just going for a dental cleaning, it’s a little bit of normalcy.”

Thanks to our generous donors, and the GlobalGiving community, International Medical Corps has been actively working since the storm to support some 3,350 medical consultations.

We thank everyone at GlobalGiving for your constant support as we continue to support the relief, recovery and resiliency for survivors of natural disasters, like those of Hurricane Michael.

Sean (left) and our team set up temporary shelters
Sean (left) and our team set up temporary shelters
Our shelters can be assembled into a med. facility
Our shelters can be assembled into a med. facility
PanCare Health Center using our temporary shelters
PanCare Health Center using our temporary shelters
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Providing care at the temporary health clinic
Providing care at the temporary health clinic

When Donald decided it was time to seek treatment for his swollen right hand a week after Hurricane Michael tore through his home town of Chattahoochee in an economically stressed rural corner of the Florida Panhandle, his options were limited.

With the area still reeling from the storm’s destruction and public services struggling to return to normal, he said there was only one real choice: an International Medical Corps clinic, set up in the storm’s aftermath to treat survivors in an open field near the Intersection of US 90 and the town’s main street.

“It’s a relief that you’re here,” his wife, Tamara, told the clinic staff. “We didn’t have any place else to go.”

Like the majority of those who came to the clinic for treatment on that day, Donald’s injury was not especially serious—it was diagnosed as a bite from one of a growing population of large insects indigenous to the Panhandle that has thrived in the standing water of Michael’s aftermath. These pests suddenly found it easy to prey on Chattahoochee’s residents, who had been living for days in homes where a lack of electricity—and, thus, air conditioning—meant windows left open to welcome any breeze that would provide relief from the area’s warm, humid climate.

“We lost power for six days,” Donald said. “It came back yesterday.” His family home was damaged but still habitable—although he was keeping an eye on the roof, fearing it might leak when the next big rain comes.

Before the day was out, the International Medical Corps team—which had split into day and night shifts—had treated other local residents for a variety of problems, including head and foot trauma, headaches, ear aches, high blood pressure and stress-related symptoms, most likely related to the difficulty of living amid the destruction caused by Hurricane Michael’s aftermath: power outages, blocked roads, damaged homes and the debris from huge trees snapped in half by the 155-mph winds. And if the patients needed it, they helped heal the soreness, swelling and even infections that can accompany insect bites.

We thank GlobalGiving for your support as we continue to support the medical needs for the women, men, and children affected by the devastation from Hurricane Michael.

Hurricane Michael team
Hurricane Michael team
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Organization Information

International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Project Leader:
Kimberly Laney
Los Angeles, CA United States

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