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Less than 24 hours after a monstrous EF-5 tornado ripped through parts of Oklahoma City and its suburbs, our relief team arrived in the hard-hit suburb of Moore to identify needs and arrange aid deliveries. Here, Kate Dischino shares a glimpse of how the devastation has affected the health care needs of survivors.
Today, I met an incredible young woman named Cherokee while standing on the corner of SW Fourth and Telephone Streets — an area of Moore, Oklahoma devastated by the May 20th tornado.
At this corner, Cherokee stopped to off-load water to help emergency personnel responding to the tornado. She had piled the water in the bottom of her baby’s stroller. It was as much as she could fit. Cherokee and her husband felt they needed to contribute whatever they could to the response efforts in their community. Growing up in Norman, Oklahoma — tornadoes are all too familiar to Cherokee. She recalls a vivid memory of her mom frantically corralling her and her brothers into the bathtub before pulling a mattress over their heads during that frightening May 1999 night in Norman. At the time, Cherokee was just six years old.
From my vantage point at this sidewalk corner, the damage to Moore Medical Center is gut-wrenching. As we stand together, Cherokee smiles and tells me about the day her daughter was born — nearly one year ago to the day. Cherokee’s smile widens as she talks about the nurse who helped her in the delivery room, and how that nurse stayed long after her shift was done to ensure everyone was okay. Cherokee looks away for a moment as she realizes there will be a period of time when she cannot bring her baby to Moore Medical Center for check-ups and care. Cherokee worries about where she will go in the immediate future, and then begins to worry about her neighbor who is in her third trimester of pregnancy and had planned to deliver at Moore Medical Center. I hand her my card. She smiles. I tell her that this worries me too, and we’re working to address these needs.
Cherokee is 19 years old and is studying to become a medical professional. I’m a stranger in her town, working hard to help address the health care needs of survivors. While our lives may appear to be different, Cherokee and I share something special — a deep appreciation for medical professionals who go above and beyond what’s asked of them each and every day. Here in Moore, AmeriCares is focused on empowering these amazing health professionals to care for Cherokee and tornado survivors like her who are in need of medical services.
I’m cheering her on as Cherokee pursues this admirable profession that provides crucial health services — the same way that we are all cheering for the Moore community in their recovery.