Not all disaster responses are just to the disaster at hand. While volunteering on Damn the Torpedoes, Team Rubicon’s response to Hurricane Sally in Florida and Alabama, two Team Rubicon volunteers also had the chance to save a life.
Greyshirts Becky Hatfield and Hannah Cisneros had just left a gas station and were headed back to base at the end of a day conducting site surveys—investigating homes that had been damaged by Sally to determine how, and if Team Rubicon could help—when they noticed numerous cars had slowed and were swerving around what appeared to be a small traffic accident. Driving past the vehicle, which was stopped in the middle of the road, the two noticed that a man was slumped over in the driver’s seat. Instincts kicking in, the two pulled over and ran to the vehicle. The driver was struggling to breathe; his wife and daughter were crying and unable to help or call for assistance.
As Cisneros worked to calm the family and get paramedics on the way while, Hatfield attended to the driver, Mike. Then, Cisneros noticed the truck was still in drive. Fearing Mike’s foot would slip off the brake, the Greyshirts worked together to hold him steady and get the truck into park.
Before the medics could arrive, Mike’s condition started to decline rapidly. “I knew he needed more support than his own body could provide, so I started CPR and kept it going until the paramedics got there,” said Hatfield.
When the paramedics did arrive, she gave them the information she had and the Greyshirts walked away, both of them in shock. Neither had ever anticipated the disaster they would be responding to while providing disaster relief would be on the side of a road. Or, for Hatfield at least, that saving a life would be part of her first-ever deployment.
Both Hatfield and Cisneros demobilized from Damn the Torpedoes a few days later, and the family remained on both of their minds.
“I wondered how Mike was doing and if he lived or not,” says Hatfield. “My heart went out to that family. I just wanted everything to be okay for them.”
It was then that Mike’s wife, Lillian, contacted Hatfield on Facebook. “She had remembered my name from the front of my greyshirt,” said Hatfield.
In fact, Mike, who had been rushed into emergency open-heart surgery, had survived. Lillian informed Hatfield that the doctors made the comment that by getting the getting information to the paramedics quickly and starting CPR, the Greyshirts had saved Mike’s life.
For Hatfield, the experience provided a lesson, too, and one she passes on to others now. “For any Greyshirt who finds themself in a position they have never been in, trust your instincts,” she said. “Normally, I would have just assumed that they had car trouble and not stopped. Something in my gut told me that this family needed our help and we were just lucky enough to come along at the right time.”