SCABB Blog

Blood Collectors Week: As the Waters Recede

In August 2016, only a few weeks after a mass shooting in Baton Rouge, catastrophic flooding left thousands of homes and businesses under water.  The torrential downpours dumped three times more water on Baton Rouge and surrounding areas than Hurricane Katrina.  The devastation left was said to be a 1 in 1,000-year event.  Area homes and businesses took on water that was anywhere from one to eight feet deep.  Many lost everything they owned.  Area blood centers were unable to collect blood products for at least six days!  LifeShare Blood Centers in Baton Rouge was no exception.  To make sure that patient needs were met, our Product Management team was able to get our local service hospitals stocked to be able to ride out the storm.  This was no small task since many area roads were already flooding.

The flood waters came up so fast that many people were left stranded in their homes with no way out.  A state of emergency was declared, but most rescues began locally.  With some phone systems down, people were unable to reach out for help or find loved ones.  Our first priority became making contact with our team.  Our Baton Rouge management team spent hours on the phone trying to make contact with team members.  Texting was the only communication with some, since calls would not go through.  Some were able to communicate through Facebook and some we were unable to reach at all.

Thankfully, our BR center is located in a higher area of town and didn’t flood.  Unlike most businesses in the surrounding areas, we were very lucky.  As the water started to recede and we were finally able to return to work, the magnitude of the situation really set in.  While trying to contact blood drive coordinators and donors, we were also supporting our team.  Many of our techs lost everything, this included scrubs to wear to work.  Some borrowed scrubs and clothes from others just to be able to return to work.  They were living with family or friends and dealing with gutting out their homes, FEMA, childcare, and so many other things.  Imagine for a moment losing everything you own, including your vehicle.  Your children losing all of their clothes, belongings, school supplies, and basically starting over with nothing.  Imagine being rescued from the flood waters with nothing, your purse or wallet washed away and having to replace everything in them…driver’s license, social security card, and credit cards.  It was overwhelming for so many people.  For many, being able to return to work was a necessity.  It was also familiar and the only stability they had.  They were able to rely on their team for support.

The region will be dealing with the devastation caused for a very long time.  LifeShare Baton Rouge is now dealing with the loss of about two-thirds of our scheduled future blood drives.  Our calendar has been erased for the most part and our recruitment team is starting over.  So many of the area businesses were impacted by the flooding and are now unable to conduct blood drives.  Our community has supported us over the years by voluntarily hosting blood drives when we call.  Our regular donors show up at blood drives and our center to give the gift of life to those in need.  Our team had the opportunity to give back by teaming with some local businesses.  V. Watts Furniture in Livingston and Sammy’s Grill in Central served meals to some of the worst hit areas.  LifeShare was able to be there and give t-shirts to anyone who needed them.  There was no blood drive, just our team handing out t-shirts.  It was such a humbling experience to see people literally break down and cry at the gift of a new, clean, dry    t-shirt and hot meal.  The show of support by others to our region has been phenomenal.

We have been fortunate to have the support of the entire LifeShare family.  Donors in neighboring communities were able to donate blood to meet the needs in Baton Rouge, while many in our area were unable.  Our teams in the surrounding LifeShare Centers have sent clothes, supplies, and gift cards to the BR team.  From the tragedies in our area we have witnessed a comradery, not only in the community but in our own team.  This Blood Collector’s Week for our team has been unlike any other.  Not only are we thankful for our wonderful donors, we are thankful for each other.  We are now closer, stronger, and driven.

 

Stephanie Duplessis
Center Manager-Baton Rouge
LifeShare Blood Centers
SCABB District Director III (AR, LA, MS)

 

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