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Living Through the Eye of Harvey

By: Ton La, Jr (T.J.)

Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston, TX during the early morning hours on August 27. When I woke up, all I saw was devastation. Highway 288 transformed into a lake. The bayou running underneath was completely flooded with water spilling into the roads. Hermann Park, a place where I walk almost every day, was unrecognizable. People had abandoned their vehicles. I could see them all submerged. The garage first floor was underwater, and the roads that lead to and from my apartment complex were not traversable.

I told myself something else was wrong and it took me a minute to figure out what it was: Silence.

My fridge stopped humming. The highway sounds that comforted me during my night time study sessions were nonexistent. The roaring of ambulances passing by my place to Ben Taub General Hospital was gone. There was no more rain and no more wind, but I knew those two would come back and not leave the city alone.

When I walked downstairs, I met several people as awe-struck as I was. Few of us spoke; none of us pulled out our phones to record the water. We simply stood there. I was with an elderly man who started to cry, and I started to cry with him.

Yesterday, Governor Greg Abbott deployed the entire Texas National Guard, but this will not be enough. We need the help of the entire country and every capable civilian to push through this tragedy, to rebuild. As human beings, altruism is an innate quality that makes us act in the most selfless ways in times of catastrophe. Hurricane Harvey is a catastrophe. Harvey has displaced thousands upon thousands of Texans out of their homes, inflicted millions of dollars in damage, and lead to an untold number of people and animals to death, which only continues to grow.

As a member of the American Medical Student Association Board of Trustees, I ask that you reach out to everyone that you know who lives in the state of Texas. If you are in Texas, volunteer if capable. AMSA recognizes that a significant influx of sick and injured people may occur after natural disasters or unforeseen emergencies. We support volunteerism by physicians-in-training in such exceptional situations, and ask that hospitals and deans of medical schools support their students in this endeavor consistent with what is both safe and appropriate to their level of clinical training, as well as extend wider latitude of lenience in participating in school-related activities.

Most importantly, I personally ask that you consider sharing Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund crowdfunding initiatives on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and, if you can, to donate as well. Every single person who helps matters, and everyone in the state of Texas is indebted to your selflessness. Thank you everyone for reading.

Ton La, Jr (T.J.) is the Student Editor of The New Physician magazine and an MD/JD Candidate Class of 2021 at Baylor College of Medicine. Questions? Contact TJ at studenteditor@amsa.org.

Editor’s Note: See here for a list of ways to donate to Harvey victims and how to avoid scams, courtesy of The New York Times.

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