I want to get this all out to everyone (before I\r\nforget details) so please excuse my not writing to\r\neveryone who wrote to me individually.\r\n\r\nCandy and I are back in sweet Mena, Arkansas after a\r\n12 hour drive from New Orleans last night. We are well\r\n(apart from odd rashes and scratches (we are off to\r\nget checked out today) and even have our\r\nLab/Bassethound, Della. I am feeling a little guilty\r\nin that we haven\'t lost anything!\r\n\r\nAnyway, Candy is a nurse in a seniors\' residence in\r\nthe French Quarter (Maison Hospitaliere) and she said\r\non Sunday that she would be going into work as usual.\r\nI said that I would go too, as they were bound to need\r\nhelp. Luckily we had my old farm truck (\'85 Ford F150)\r\n\r\nGot to the Maison, where, surprisingly, all the staff\r\nhad arrived too. There were 67 residents, and 27 staff\r\nincluding the Administrator. I had a bedside 22\r\nautomatic which I had put in my bag \'just in case -\r\nyou never know etc\'.. Of the residents, about half are\r\nambulatory and rational, the remainder a mixture\r\nranging from tube feeders to altzheimers.\r\n\r\nKatrina came and went. Some damage to shutters,\r\nrooftiles- nothing serious but we kept working to make\r\nsure residents were happy and felt secure. Generator\r\ncame on to emergency lighting and any life support\r\nsystems. Admin got on phone Tuesday am to arrange\r\ntransport out. We told residents that busses would be\r\nhere in 6 hours. I went out to make contact with\r\nanyone who could help with the Hospialiere evac. I\r\nfound that our bit of New Orleans was dry and\r\nrelatively damage free. Plenty of Police about, all\r\npreening for the newsmen who had descended like flies\r\non a corpsee, but none had any authority to help, nor\r\ncould contact those who could make a decision.\r\n\r\nThe kitchen worked on gas, and kept supplying three\r\nsquares per person daily. The deep freeze was also on\r\nemergency power. I checked diesel and we had one and a\r\nhalf 55 gals total. Enough for four days.\r\n\r\nThe Maison occupies nearly an entire block of the\r\nquarter and is nearly 150 years old. Was opened for\r\n\'the widows of sea captains\', but now is unisex and\r\ncares for medicare patients too. The only part of the\r\nblock not owned, is a semi-derelict building which\r\nstaff called \'the Crack House\'. The wall separating\r\nthem from us was blown down. The deputy head nurse had\r\na .38 and I had the .22 (which was nice). Phone lines\r\nworked, although cell phones didn\'t. Air conditioning\r\ndidn\'t work either.\r\n\r\nBefore the storm, the danger was going to be from the\r\nroof, so all patients were brought downstairs. After\r\nthe storm, we got information that their was going to\r\nbe 12\' of flood water, so (even tho the lifts had\r\nceased) we got everyone upstairs. The critical\r\npatients were upstairs anyway. When it became clear\r\nthat there wasn\'t to be flooding in the quarter, and\r\nthat transport was imminent, we moved most people back\r\ndown again. They sat in their wheelchairs in rows,\r\nwaiting for evacuation.\r\n\r\nOn Tuesday afternoon the Administrator found that the\r\nbusses he had arranged weren\'t coming. No one knew\r\nwhy. So he began to find some more. This he did (from\r\nShreveport) some seven hours away. We told the\r\nresidents who were getting uncomfortable and uneasy.\r\nThose that had their own rooms, were asked to sleep in\r\nthem and all to get some rest. Took the Admin to a\r\nhome in St Charles Ave to rescue his Burmese cat.\r\nWaded ther last 4 blocks throughwater up to knee high.\r\nI remembered afterwards that these were the only shoes\r\nI had. The truck pulled out larger trees, and rode\r\nover smaller brush and debris, and only stopped when\r\nwater reached floorpan.\r\n\r\nI acted as a kind of security and song and dance man,\r\nmy aim was to keep confused and worried residents\r\nhappy and amused and informed. When I found a stranger\r\ntapping out wiring, I told him to leave (at gunpoint)\r\nand that if he, or anyone from the crack-house stepped\r\nfoot on our property again, I would shoot to kill. He\r\ngot message and we had no trouble from there again.\r\n\r\nIn front of the Conference centre there were thousands\r\nand thousands of homeless people. Some of them were\r\ndrunk and threw bottles and bricks at my truck. One\r\nguy approached and told me to get out and leave my\r\ntruck. A 22 pointed between his eyes changed his mind.\r\nI was lucky he wasn\'t armed himself.\r\n\r\nEveryone was snatching sleep in hour or two segments,\r\nsleeping where they could lie. With temps in 100\'s and\r\nhumidity at 65%, people started dehydrating fast.\r\nWater became critical and we drained water systems for\r\nflushing toilets and washing. We had a good supply of\r\ndrinking water, and one water cooler.\r\n\r\nThe Shreveport busses disappeared one hour from their\r\ndestination. This time we found out that FEMA had\r\nconfiscated them for their own use. Admin (brilliant\r\nguy, totally out of his depth in this situatioon, as\r\nhe would be the first to agree) arranged for a church\r\ngroup, from Dallas to come and get us in 2 busses.\r\nThese also were stopped and confiscated. Residents\r\nstarted dying. Candy and another nurse went for a walk\r\nand saw the undertakers on N Rampart had staff in it.\r\nThey let us have one body bag. But had left by the\r\ntime other residents started to die. \r\n\r\nIt was beginning to look like a Kafka-esque story, in\r\nthat we could arrange as many busses as we wanted, but\r\ncouldn\'t actually have them.\r\n\r\nOn the Weds night, Director of Nursing, her deputy,\r\nthe MDS staff nurse and the Dietician/cook left for\r\nHouston, taking the 2 guns with them.\r\n\r\nCandy was made head nurse and she was *magnificent*.\r\nFor the first time she arranged a triage and separated\r\non cots, everyone into \'need\' groups and detailed\r\nCNA\'s into shifts to look after their own group.\r\n\r\nThis guy came to the front door. An \'alternative\' type\r\nand I was very wary. However, I went out to talk to\r\nhim and found he was most concerned that people got\r\nout asap. He disappeared and brought back some box\r\nfans, cigarettes for the nurses, drinking water and a\r\nchain saw. Then he got to work clearing the road\r\noutside for the busses when they came etc. Totally\r\nbrilliant! Another guy wandered past called Tim - a\r\nfrenchman, who helped me move beds, residents and also\r\nclear up outside. He left to help others when he saw\r\nthat he had done all he could. But the alternative guy\r\n- prison tats, the lot - stayed around fetching and\r\ncarrying where necessary. His name is Issac Scott and\r\nhe also had the mongrel on a bit of string.. I brought\r\nthem both out and as far as I know, he\'s living rough\r\nin Baton Rouge where I dropped him off. I do hope he\r\nmakkes contact again. The one thing that makes a lot\r\nof this worthwhile is that I saw a lot of pills\r\nscattered by the front of my truck. I was concerned\r\nbecause I was sure that I had packed the medecines\r\nwell, when Issac told me he was a recovering Herion\r\naddict and those pills were his methadone - he decided\r\nthat from now on, he\'d go cold turkey and had\r\nre-discovered the value of life. Inspiring!\r\n\r\nEvery day, I took the truck through debris and floods\r\nto find help. I met police, SWAT, Nat\'l Guard and\r\nno-one could contact any kind of authority to get\r\nhelp.\r\n\r\nBy Thursday, the only help I had found was from the\r\nBBC who came and filmed our plight on Wednesday. He\r\nleft a number to call if there were any changes in our\r\nsituation. All the staff were now resigned to have to\r\nstay until either we were rescued or all the residents\r\ndied. Some of these staff had lost their homes and\r\nfamilies, yet they kept on doing what they did. I felt\r\nhumble. These CNA\'s were on minimum wage $6.00/hr and\r\ntheir devoltion to the residents was amazing.\r\n\r\nAndrew came bursting in to the games room on Thursday\r\nnight to say that there would bne busses first thing\r\nFriday. There was no reaction. We had heard it all\r\nbefore.\r\n\r\nI told Andrew that if no busses had arrived by 12 noon\r\nFriday, I would start lifting people onto wicker\r\nchairs in the back of the truck and ferry them out. \r\n\r\nMorning on Friday, no busses.\r\n\r\n11o\'clock busses came in sight on Dauphine street with\r\na police escort. A young policeman with a carbine\r\narrived pointing it at me. As I was now wearinga scrub\r\ntop, I lost it and screamed asking was he going to\r\nshoot me? and that if he didn\'t put it up I\'d shove it\r\nup his arse. I had also called BBC to tell them we\r\nwere evec\'ing. They arrived to film it all. They were\r\nso nice and caring. We had to slide the upstairs\r\nresidents down the stairwell un mattresses as we had\r\nlittle ot no strength left. This was veto\'d by a FEMA\r\nofficial(?) who collected 2 window shutter blown off\r\nand said that we would carry them down on those. We\r\nended up doing it our way. I asked who was going to do\r\nthis carrying. None of us had any strength left. I\r\nthen arranged for the shiny policemen to put down\r\ntheir guns, get out of their A/C cars and come and\r\nlift people, which they did.\r\n\r\nMy truck was loaded with med supplies, till it\r\ncouldn\'t hold any more.\r\n\r\nWe left some time early Friday afternoon and drove 7\r\nhours to Houston..\r\n\r\nThere were relief nurses and volunteers at the Holiday\r\nInn when we arrived. However, our staffs\' knowledge of\r\nthe patients and the routines, made our staff\r\nindispensible, so the 14-20 hour days remained in\r\noperation. Except for me. I had no proper function\r\nother than to roam the floors and rooms our people\r\nwere on and keep them informed, read to them and\r\nsmiling a lot.\r\n\r\nAndrew arranged for our residents to go to local-ish\r\nNursing homes over three days. Thursday would see them\r\nall gone.\r\n\r\nThen found the medical records were back at the\r\nMaison. Everyone refused to go back. And I know I\r\nshouldn\'t have, but I did, taking Candy and the dog\r\nwith me, leaving Houston at 2am Thursday. Had a tire\r\nblow-out at Beaumont and waited at a tire store till\r\nthey opened at 7.30. They replaced tires (2) at no\r\ncharge, and we were off again. Brakes boiled in\r\nJefferson parish, all the grease melted out of theo/s\r\nbearing, but pressed on to where we live as there was\r\na curfew in operation and we had missed our escort.\r\nSlept in our house some of Thursday night. I was so\r\nclose and putrid smelling, that I went and slept in\r\nthe bed of the truck. The Minx was safe and I put it\r\nin a neighbours garage with the keys still in it.\r\nMosquito bites all night. Tried to leave at 2 am,\r\nturned back by police. Finally got back to Maison at\r\n6.30. Got the records, marked the room with the\r\nbodies, as well as the front door, and on our way out,\r\nmade contact with a kind of authority to tell them\r\nwhere the bodies were.\r\n\r\nDrove all day and we are now back in lovely, quiet,\r\nsafe, hospitable, redneck Mena! The people here and in\r\nNYC (Candys\' family area) wanted to help, and I am\r\narranging for our local \'bigwig\' Nan Gaddis of Vision\r\nRealty to start a cash fund to help those CNA\'s\r\nrebuild their lives after they return to NOLA. If you\r\nwant to contribute, or know someone who does, then\r\nemail to email@example.com . This is only going to\r\nbe open till 15 October. \r\n\r\nClothes, Food and other supplies simply aren\'t needed\r\nas I saw the entire area swamped with them. People\r\nwill forget our CNA\'s in a few days, but these lovely\r\npeople will need resettling in New Orleans. It would\r\nbe nice if they had a nestegg to start with.