ELKHART — Three Elkhart Residents traveled to New York and New Jersey to provide medical assistance to victims of superstorm Sandy.
Kim Henke, Tim Miller and Dean Stanage arrived in New York on Oct. 29 to work with other members of OH-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team, said Richard Hess, commander of the regional team, which covers Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. OH-1 DMAT is a federal response unit made of trained health professionals and support personnel, according to the OH-1 website.
Henke is a registered nurse, while Miller is communications officer and Stanage is a respiratory therapist. Six other members in the Elkhart area, including nurses, paramedics and security officers, are on standby if needed to be deployed to New York.
By congressional order, members can only be deployed for 14 days, so Henke, Miller and Stanage are expected to return to Elkhart next week, Hess said. He said they try to aid about 200 to 300 patients.
“It’s so physically and emotionally taxing, because when we deploy, we are expected to work 14 to 18-hour shifts,” he said. “You may go a couple days without sleep, plus the intensity of what you’re working on is such you can only go so long.”
So far, the members from Elkhart are helping teams from North Carolina, Florida, Texas, South Carolina and Minnesota. More than 800 members of OH-1 DMAT have been deployed to the New York and New Jersey area since the storm hit.
As another storm is expected to hit the northeast coast, Hess said officials will assess the situation and make a decision on what teams will continue in the area and what others should leave.
“Once that storm passes, they’ll re-assess everything and they’re going to make decisions as to what missions will continue, what missions will wind down over to state and if the missions change then they’ll order fresh personnel to take on new missions.”
Hess, who joined OH DMAT in 2002 and had been deployed to help after storms and hurricanes in the past, said the three members have been in close communication with him and told him they had never encountered anything like what they did after Sandy.
“It’s such a huge response because the shelters and the patient population numbers are (in) the 500-to-600-people-under-one-roof type scenario,” he said.
Other Elkhart residents have traveled to New York and New Jersey to aid before and after the storm hit. More than 100 emergency responders left from Indiana before the storm to help residents on the east coast prepare. Elkhart County’s American Red Cross executive director Frank Connolly is overseeing efforts to provide shelter in New York. And the Red Cross invited Elkhart County residents to volunteer with disaster relief after the storm.