CAREGiver of the Month Bertha Trevino can laugh about it now. At the time, watching her client's chihuahua lifted completely into the air by a powerful wind gust from Hurricane Harvey was terrifying.
"I had let her little dog just outside the front door so it could take a bathroom break when I saw its legs go up in the air. I ran outside to catch it before it got blown away, and the dog started to shake because it was scared. My client already had started to panic a little when the storm arrived, so this was the last thing that we needed," said Bertha, who had answered an urgent call from her Home Instead Senior Care® office Thursday, Aug. 24, the day before Hurricane Harvey barreled directly into the Victoria area.
When Bertha arrived at the client's house Thursday, she was happy to see its sturdy construction consisted of brick and block. Her client already had stocked up on food and bottled water. Even though she had never been in a hurricane, Bertha thought she was ready for the challenge. The client emphasized she felt comfortable in her house and acknowledged she was going against her family's wishes.
When the heavy windswept rain erupted in horizontal fashion Friday at 3 p.m., the client began to nervously stir. Then, the power went out about 10 p.m. The shaken client began to cry, and Bertha tried to calm her. Finally, Bertha called the Home Instead office, which offered to find a way to evacuate them. "But," Bertha recalled, "even though she was stressed, she thought about it and still did not want to leave. I reassured her I would stay no matter what happened."
The client wasn't going to sleep Friday night unless Bertha was in the bedroom with her. "I positioned myself on the floor next to her bed and didn't sleep a wink because of the sound of the whistling wind and pounding rain. When my client finally went to sleep at 10 p.m., I slipped off to another room, and her dog slept next to me, but I was always awake. The client slept until 4 a.m., and the house had gotten warmer, stuffy and damp because the air conditioning wasn't working as the result of the loss of electricity. Later Saturday, when the wind started to die down, I opened the windows to get some relief for the client, and it helped. It was just misting outside, so no rain came in the house. The client calmed down."
Saturday night went considerably smoother. As Bertha prepared to leave Sunday morning, the client gave her a big hug and a kiss on the forehead.
Bertha said roads around the small town were flooded, but the water subsided enough to allow her to leave Sunday at 7 a.m. to return home while another CAREGiver relieved her. Bertha and the other CAREGiver were the only ones working in the area during the hurricane. Bertha had to take back roads because of the flooding, and what was normally a 30-minute drive from the small town to Victoria lasted four hours.
When Bertha arrived home, she was happy to see her family, who was safe. Damage was limited to an uprooted tree in their front yard and scattered branches and debris circling their home.
Asked to put her experience in perspective, Bertha said, "I wasn't scared for myself. As far as my family was concerned, I believed in my husband and his ability to hold things together with our children. I was concerned about the client and worried about comforting her and convincing her we would be fine. I didn't feel I had time to be scared, except for when the wind nearly carried her dog away. I'm glad the client didn't see that, and I did not tell her."
Franchise owner Stephanie Niles, who was stranded with her family near Richmond, checked on Bertha by phone and coordinated her brave CAREGivers' efforts. "We are so glad Bertha stayed with a client who didn't want to evacuate. It was a rough few days, but she did a great job," Stephanie said. "Bertha and other CAREGivers went above and beyond the call of duty to assist and comfort clients while putting themselves at risk. We cannot thank them enough."
Stephanie's assistance for Bertha and her family was more than just moral support. Bertha explained: "Stephanie provided monetary assistance from the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation's Disaster Relief Fund, which came in handy. Other Home Instead owners and staff members brought loads of food, water and other supplies for us CAREGivers and our families."
Bertha added: "My family and I are grateful because most Victoria stores remained closed or had limited hours following the storm's first arrival. Our electricity was out for a week, and we did not have a generator, so we lost our perishable food from our refrigerator and freezer. We made due with Home Instead's help. I finally went back to work on the following Friday. My family was fine – no one was hurt – and the client remained safe, so it all worked out."
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