Thursday, August 31, 2017


Some events in life are hard to describe. Words just don't seem enough. Hurricane Harvey is definitely one of those events for me. So I wasn't going to write about it. Just ignore it completely. Like it never happened. But it did happen. And it was big and scary. And truthfully very traumatizing. And Joe thinks I should write about it. He thinks it will help me process everything. He might be right. So here it is. My experience during Hurricane Harvey. 

Here are some background details that help make this story complete: 

Thursday August 17: I lost my wallet. Had to cancel my credit card, debit card and close my checking account. 

Sunday August 19: Joe and I surprise the kids with a trip to East Texas (for job interviews). We pack the van with a few overnight bags and head off. New credit/debit card/checks have NOT arrived yet. 

(Insert fun family trip HERE. Swimming in hotel pools. Eating out. Exploring new towns and parks. Watching a solar eclipse in two states at one time. All of that and more.)

Wednesday August 23: We hear a tropical storm/potential hurricane is headed towards Corpus Christi (i.e. our home). At this point we are still out of town but supposed to be driving back in the morning so Joe can work the next night (6p-4a). 

Thursday August 24: Joe and I both wake up ridiculously early (without alarms) and check the news. The tropical storm is now a Category 1 Hurricane with potential to worsen. It's decided - the kids and I will not be returning to Corpus Christi with Joe. We pack our bags and leave the hotel by 6am. A former ER resident that now lives in San Antonio has offered to take in me and the kids for the duration of the storm. 

We arrive in San Antonio around noon on Thursday. Joe quickly unloads our stuff (including a few groceries we purchased the night before) and drives off. He is literally driving into the storm as many many people are evacuating. I feel as though my heart is breaking. But I didn't have time to think about it as Joe needed a short list of supplies to buy and things I wanted done at our house to prepare for the hurricane. He would literally have 3 hours or less to get the house ready before he had to report to the hospital. Once he was at the hospital he was required to stay for the duration of the storm. There would be no going to check on the house. There would be no evacuating. He would be living and working there until it had passed regardless of what was to come. 

When it came right down to it there were very few things in my house that I wanted protected. (And by protected I mean moved to the second story because that was our only option). My computer and external hard drive. The quilts my mom has made for us. And my kids' baby books. Our wedding album. That's it. Everything else's could have washed away. Oh I did have Joe put my BOB strollers into the house (vs in the garage) because I didn't trust our garage door to withstand a hurricane. And I really love my strollers. 

And so began the long process of watching and waiting. Watching the radar and local news from afar. Waiting to see what would be. It felt surreal. Like this couldn't possibly be my life. My mind could not comprehend that my husband was in a hospital that is literally located on the shore as a hurricane was moving towards it. A hurricane that decided to grow bigger and stronger and uglier with every passing hour. Thankfully the kids and I - despite being homeless, vehicle-less, money-less, and husband/daddy-less were very well taken care of. Our hosts were amazing. They fed and entertained us. They stepped up in a major way. And for that I will be forever grateful. But the one thing I wanted was my husband safe and by my side. And nothing felt like enough - until I could have that. At this point I had a couple other resident wives reach out to me via text. Their husbands were in that same hospital as they watched and waited from afar as well. These girls became my instant comrades, my lifeline. They were the only ones that truly understood the very real fear. 

Thursday night I put the kids to bed and tried to sleep myself. I could not sleep. I tossed and turned and cried and watched that stupid radar all night. 

Friday August 25: I got up with the kids and went through the motions of life. They thankfully seemed completely unaffected by this entire situation (though I had explained it to them). They did not seem concerned and carried on as usual. It was bizarre to me but also a huge blessing. Time seemed to stand still. I was sick to my stomach. I was scared. I was angry. Angry that my husband had to stay back in the storm. Angry that my Facebook feed was filled with friends on their "hurricane vacations" WITH their husbands while I was seriously afraid my husband was going to be killed by this hurricane. Even half of the residents were evacuated with their families. To say I was envious of them was a major understatement. I was able to hold it mostly together until the afternoon when it was announced the hurricane had increased to a Category 3 and Joe's hospital was built to sustain a Category 2 hurricane. This is when I went numb. I just couldn't take it anymore. 

It's important to note that my communication with Joe was very sporadic through out all of this. I received an occasional text from him here and there. And most things I heard from him were upbeat. I mean...this is the kind of stuff EM doctors LOVE. Natural disasters and trauma. It's what they love doing. Me? Not so much. 

Friday evening our hosts fed us dinner and I stepped away from my phone during the meal and tried to eat. After dinner I was starting to get the kids ready for bed and I decided to check my phone. It was at this point I learned Hurricane Harvey had become a Category 4 and it was expected to hit land that evening. I had previously thought it would hit in middle of the night and I still had time. Suddenly all that time was gone. It was happening. And THIS is when Joe called me. It was my first time hearing his voice in over 24 hours. It was the sweetest sound I'd ever heard. We talked. We laughed. We cried. Ok. I cried and Joe told me to calm down. He reassured me that it would all be ok - which I wanted to believe - but couldn't. He even talked to the kids. Told them he loved them and wished them a good night. Then the hospital lost power and he had to get back to work. I made him call me back and leave a voicemail so I could listen to it all night long if I needed to. He laughed at me but complied. 

The kids went to bed. Basically they put themselves to bed because I just couldn't. And then I laid in the dark room with them and watched. I watched as that stupid hurricane miraculously veered north at what felt like the last minute and missed Corpus Christi. I cried. I breathed again for the first time in what felt like forever. I listened to Joe's message and then I slept. A little. Because I knew while we had missed the eye of the storm Harvey wasn't over yet. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

5,000 miles later

And we are back in Texas. This year our return feels a little bit more like coming home. A year ago driving back was torture. I forced myself to do it with white knuckles on the steering wheel and tears in my eyes. This year the only white knuckle driving I did was due to windy mountain roads with low visibility.