Saturday, July 26, 2008

My beloved library

At the risk of this becoming a blog about nothing but the 2008 Cedar Rapids flood, I really need to alert you to the link I've added to the Cedar Rapids Public Library. When I clicked the link I was filled with hope but also sadness. Hope because the library obviously plans to come back better than ever and provides a secure link to donate to their foundation, as well as a promise to provide a link in the future to donate books online.

Sadness because I clicked on the photos link and was taken on a tour of what this flood did to my library. It was gut wrenching to click on the first photo and see my library underwater and then to click through the rest of the photo tour. I saw empty spaces that were once filled with books, magazines and newspapers, CDs and DVDs, computers, and comfortable chairs. I've said it before, but it bears repeating. It breaks my heart. Nevertheless, I encourage you to take the photo tour. You'll see what my library has become: a shell of its former self. Maybe it will even move you to donate to the library foundation or to donate books when that comes online.

Now the question becomes, where should the new and improved library be located? The current site is just across the street from the Cedar River. There is no guarantee that this disaster won't recur next year or the year after. On the other hand, I've lived in this area for over 30 years; and nothing even close to this has ever happened. I love the downtown library location and its proximity to some low income neighborhoods. This is sure to be one contentious issue among a multitude facing my city in the future.

I'll keep you posted, but for now good night.

Friday, July 18, 2008

TV coverage of the Cedar Rapids flood of 2008

The flood of 2008 devastated my city, my friends' homes, my hospital, my downtown, my public library, even my favorite place to go out for breakfast on Sunday mornings after church. During the flood and into the aftermath one of our local television stations, KCRG, was on the air nearly 24 hours a day without commercial interruption providing news. Things have returned to at least subnormal as opposed to disastrous, but they continue to report on the continuing issues of recovery and rebuilding.

That's why I've added the link to to my blog. The site is a bit busy, but read carefully and you'll find links to photos, videos and stories of what this flood wrought. If you weren't here or just have an urge, as I do, to not relive this catastrophe (God forbid) but to review it, the site is a wonderful resource.

That's enough for the moment so for now good night.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

29,000 books

My public library has lost its entire adult collection of 29,000 books to the great Cedar Rapids flood of 2008, and there is a question of whether the children's collection is salvageable. Take a moment to think about that. 29,000 books destroyed, the library contaminated; and nothing I can do to help at least for now.

It breaks my heart. Like all professionals, I'm sure the librarians and other staff felt a sense of ownership about their space. I can't imagine what they're going through. Looking at my own modest library I try to imagine what it would be like if a flood destroyed them all. There are books I've had since young adulthood, books my mom left me after she died, books I've bought and cherished since. I've read them all and many of them multiple times. To lose them all to a flood? Unthinkable. As a friend said to me tonight about his personal library, he'd be sobbing. So would I. My books are like old friends looking back at me from the shelves. They are a comfort in difficult times and therefore irreplaceable.

For now, good night.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Flood of 2008 Part III

So ... I went home and fell into bed about 6:00 AM, dead to the world, after setting the alarm for 11:00 in case they needed me that evening. In fact, I slept so deeply that it wasn't until after the alarm went off that I discovered a message on voice mail telling me that no one would be working on Friday or through the weekend. I never heard the phone ring.

The following days became a concern financially. I work the evening shift, and we weren't needed in the clean up effort at Mercy. I am not a morning person. My usual bedtime is well after midnight, and I haul my butt out of bed around 10:00 AM. I am also slow to wake up and so enjoy drinking coffee and reading the newspaper and checking my email before leaving for work shortly after 2:00 PM, by which time I'm finally fully awake.

The problem was that I wasn't heading to work. I was sitting at home feeling useless. Because of my uncertain work schedule - I never knew when they'd need me to come back on evenings - I didn't feel able to volunteer and make a commitment I might not be able to meet. So the next time I talked to my nurse manager I volunteered to work a day shift to get our unit ready to accept patients again. Then for the next two days Mercy offered a series of educational sessions across the street at a middle school which kindly allowed us to use their facilities. I was able to renew my CPR certification and attended a myriad of inservices that were for the most part very useful. Of course, both sessions were on the day shift. Grr. My unit reopened on Monday 6/30/08. We had one patient who had put off his elective surgery until our unit reopened. An old friend, he told me he wouldn't have it done anywhere but Mercy. We now have 15 or 16 patients, still far below our usual patient census; but it's a start.

More generally, the flood waters have receded which leads me to a rant. I find it somewhat aggravating that because the Cedar River is now below flood stage we've fallen off the national news media radar. If you haven't been following this story on or on one of the local tv stations web sites you might think everything is hunky dory here in Cedar Rapids. It most definitely is not. Downtown is filthy, as are the surrounding neighborhoods. Trash is everywhere, waiting to be hauled away. As has been said many times at my church, this is not a sprint. It's a marathon. My efforts and those of hundreds of others at Mercy and elsewhere throughout the city were only the starting gun.

We are now in clean up and recovery mode. My beloved public library and the rest of downtown probably won't be able to achieve the "new normal" for at least a year. Homeowners and residents in the 100 and even the 500 year flood plains
are anxiously waiting for word on when or if they will be allowed to rebuild their homes. They are living in limbo. The word here is that all the homes in the 100 year flood plain will be demolished which would mean a FEMA buyout, but that could take up to 2 years. Meanwhile those in the 500 year flood plain deal with even more uncertainty. My friend whose home was flooded up to the rafters lives on the edge of of the 500 year flood plain. She was allowed by the city to go in and clean. Her house is now gutted to the studs and the sub flooring. There it sits while she waits for the gears of government to grind oh slowly.

Next comes the rebuilding mode. Truthfully, I hope and pray that our city council, mayor, and city manager are looking that far ahead in this marathon; but for most of us it's a matter of what we can do right now. I have contributed to legitimate charities and encourage you to do the same. I have provided food to a local program feeding the hungry and volunteer there as well. I made a promise to my friend whose home was flooded to help with painting once she is finally allowed to rebuild. Yet it still doesn't seem like enough.

I'll write new posts as things progress, but for now good night.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Flood of 2008 continued

The flood of 2008 is so truly monumental for my adopted home town of Cedar Rapids that this city will be forever remembered by those who lived through it as a before and after image. It is so overwhelming that for now all I can do is provide a brief overview interwoven with my own small part in it. Also know that the past three weeks have become a blur, so some things to follow may not be exact.

On 6/12/08 I went to work at my hospital at 1:00 PM. It was raining, hard. The news was that the Cedar River was expected to crest at 25 feet, above flood stage but within the limits the levees were able to handle. But it kept raining and raining some more. Then came news that the gauge measuring the river level had been disabled by the increasingly swift current. By around 4:30 the ambulance garage next to the emergency room was flooded. Looking out the windows of my unit where we were doing patient care as usual I could see about 50 people vainly trying to hold the flood waters at bay with sand bags. At that point things ground to a halt.

We still cared for our patients, but there was a sense that things were not going well. About 5:30 an administrator came to our floor and told us to get everything together we needed to care for our patients during an evacuation whether it be medications, IV fluids, bandages, or things too numerous to name. That took about an hour. Then came a long wait. During that time I was asked to run a list of all our patients down to the evacuation command center. After doing that I took a moment to peek out our main entrance where the windows are two stories tall. I was greeted by this sight. Hundreds of people, young and old, were standing in waist deep water outside piling sand bags against the windows while many more were stacking sand bags inside to protect against the onrushing flood. I felt the urge to go help them, but I had things that needed to be done on my unit so I returned. By that time the elevators had flooded, so I climbed the 80 stairs back home.

Then came an even longer wait. While still doing patient care and taking care of things at the nurses' station, it wasn't until about midnight that we were told to get ready to evacuate our patients: prioritizing which ones should be evacuated first, placing wheel chairs outside the rooms of patients who would need them, and most importantly, calmly telling the patients that we might have to evacuate.

Finally at around 3:30 AM came the call that there was a fear that a levee would break and that the flood would overwhelm the emergency generator. We were told to evacuate all our patients immediately. By that time, they had managed to get one elevator out of nine working so immediately became an agonizingly slow process. We lined the patients up in the hallway, the majority in wheel chairs but the most critical still in bed. It took an hour to get them all on the elevators and down to the first floor and another hour to get them half way to the exit, where buses, Humvee ambulances, and regular ambulances from as far away as Illinois were waiting. By that time I had been there well over 16 hours, a double shift. I would have tripled if they let me, but legally they couldn't of course. I protested that I was tired but okay, but after 16 hours I was running on adrenaline as anyone would be. I had to go home.

It's a matter of personal pride that as I left, I heard a chorus of thank you's which started with my nurse manager and continued down the line of my coworkers. But truly, I want to and have thanked not only the people on my unit but my colleagues throughout the hospital. Just as one example, a friend's house was flooded up to the rafters. She evacuated but came to work anyway. When I asked her why she said she had to come. She would rather be helping people than sitting at her in-law's obsessing about her house. Just as importantly, it would have been easy to panic in this crisis, but nobody did. Everyone stayed calm and in the process helped our patients stay calm as well. I am so proud of the way my hospital and everyone who was there that night responded to this disaster. I've always been somewhat cynical about advertising, but in this case it truly was the "Mercy touch."

Writing this is both therapeutic and exhausting. There's much more to tell, but at this point exhaustion has taken over. For now, good night.

About Me

I work in health care, love books, love music, enjoy the internet, my friends, and my routine. 8-)