Texas, Florida ambulance crews help in storm wake

Published 5:00 am Thursday, September 4, 2008

In times of crisis, often it’s the help of strangers that pullsus through. Gustav’s strike on Lincoln County brought strangers outof the woodwork to help with the emergency response.

King’s Daughters Medical Center was blessed to receive help froma strike force of medics that came from Florida and Texas, and werestaged throughout the county, said Emergency Services DirectorTerry Singleton.

“They’ve been great, and they really helped us out,” hesaid.

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Strike Force Leader George Piloto, a paramedic from Miami, Fla.,said while weather conditions didn’t seem so great for a visit, thetrip was still a nice change for him and his crew.

“It was wonderful,” he said. “The hospitality of the people hereis not even comparable to the people back home, and the unity hereis really impressive.”

Piloto said his crew had been amazed to see how things work in asmall area, where everyone knows each other and the community haslearned to work as a team.

“Being a smaller community, it’s like there’s a better rapportwith the medics,” he said. “In a place with 20 hospitals likeMiami, it’s easy for us to get lost in the system, and here,everyone helps with the patient and makes you feel like a part ofthe team.”

Miami paramedic Kenya Zarate said that it wasn’t just theemergency services community that made the job a real pleasure forthe visiting medics, but the people of the community itself thatmade the trip not so much work.

“Miami has a really diversified population, and sadly, thatcreates a lot of friction, and it’s nowhere near as hospitable ashere,” she said. “You have really nice people, and everyone workstogether, like a family.”

Ruth Volunteer Fire Department Chief Teresa Lawrence said it wasfun for her and her crew to see a new perspective on their everydaysurroundings as well.

“They were real quiet when they first got here, then after a fewhours they fit right in,” she said. “They couldn’t believe howquiet it was here, like they could even hear the crickets and thefrogs, and it’s not like that in Miami.”

Temple, Texas paramedic Kathy Johnson said compared to some ofthe days her group sees, Lincoln County’s emergency rate madethings a lot easier to deal with, especially in a time ofcrisis.

“It’s a lot slower here,” she said. “We’re used to runningaround 50 to 60 calls a 24-hour shift.”

Co-worker Michelle Horilica added, “This is like VacationStation.”

The medics said they are stationed out of Jackson, and were setto stay in Hurricane Gustav’s devastation area for at least amonth. Even before they got to Brookhaven, they had been on a500-mile evacuation transfer trip that took them from Picayune upto Grenada, and then on several other stops.

But once they got settled in and got a truck stationed at fourvolunteer fire departments around the county, the visiting medicssaid they really felt at home.

“We were at the Ruth Volunteer Fire Department for a while, andTeresa and her crew were just wonderful,” Zarate said.

Piloto agreed, saying they’d also learned something about localcuisine.

“Deer sausage?” he said. “We’d never had that! It was reallygood, too.”

Lawrence said the deer sausage was a part of a routine meal, andquickly became a bonding point.

“We fixed breakfast one morning for them and I took it out thereto them, and they went on and on about it,” she said. “I even toldGeorge I’d even find a way to send them some to Miami.”

As the Texas and Miami crews packed and washed their trucks toget back on the road to Jackson for their next assignment, theysaid there is no telling where they will end up next.

“We don’t know where they’ll send us,” Piloto said. “I guesswe’ll just wait until they tell us.”