Memorial Hospital nursing staff reunite with SC parish rescue team
By Shonna Riggs - Jun 21, 2007
It’s been almost two years since Hurricane Katrina, plowed the Louisiana coastline forcing 28 nurses from Memorial Hospital in New Orleans, along with some family members to evacuate into the nightmarish and deplorable conditions at the Ernest Morial Convention Center, prompting an emergency rescue by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
At a reunion ceremony Sunday, June 10, in Norco, hosted by Capt. Patrick Yoes, spokesman for St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, the rescued nurses and family members couldn’t wait to express their gratitude to the deputies who saved their lives almost two years ago.
“When I think back to the night of the rescue, I remember the look on everyone’s faces when they were safely out of the Convention Center,” Yoes told the Herald-Guide.
“There were expressions of relief and shock on all of their faces that we had managed to get them out of the Convention Center safely, it was a great feeling to rescue them,” he said.
“Not all of the people in the group we rescued that night were able to come today,” he continued.
“But everyone expressed their gratitude and we are thrilled to see the people who could come.”
Renee Riddick, a registered nurse and resident of Luling, said her husband David, who had evacuated to Dallas along with their two children, played a key role in getting the group rescued by providing information to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“During the hurricane cell phone service and communication was extremely limited, but my husband David managed to get through somehow and get us some help,” Renee said.
“I was calling Sheriff Champagne from my cell phone and sending him text messages,” David said.
“I explained to Sheriff Champagne that I had spoken to my wife (Renee) and she had been transported from Memorial Hospital to the Convention Center along with the other nurses she worked with and their families,” David said.
“They were told they would be catching a bus to evacuate, but it never arrived,” David said.
Renee waited patiently to be rescued, but said that she wasn’t afraid, by that time her survival skills kicked-in and she was more concerned with taking care of the group of children that were with them and making it safely back to her family.
“I did my best to make sure the kids had everything we needed while we waited for help to come- supplies were non existent,” she said.
“Looters gave us things like diapers, and other things to take care of the kids,” she said.
“We had to be on guard at all times, I remember hearing people at the Convention Center saying ‘you need to watch that group’ and shining their flashlights in our direction, because we were nurses the other evacuees thought for sure we’d be the only ones to get out,” she said.
Riddick said she is still affected by the experience.
“I’m under psychiatric care for post-traumatic stress, nightmares and panic attacks,” she said.
Although the nurses and their families live in different areas and different parishes they remain close and try to keep in touch with each other as much as possible going over the events that keep the bonded for life.
“It feels good seeing everyone today, being in the New Orleans in the Convention Center was an experience that I will never forget,” Cindy Bray, registered nurse, told the Herald-Guide.
“My husband John and my son, and my little Chihuahua dog were with me and I was very sick, I didn’t think I would survive,” she said.
“I passed out a number of times because I suffer from a rare condition that is affected by heat and stress,” she continued.
“My condition causes me to go into anaphalatic shock and I have to give myself shots with an epi-pen (syringe).”
“When we heard we were being rescued, I didn’t believe it, the first time they told me because when we arrived at the Convention Center, we were told there would be food and water, so at that point I wasn’t ready to listen to anything anyone had to say,” she said.
Bray said eventually she was convinced about the rescue, remained calm, and a weight begin to lift off her shoulders.
Once on the bus, Bray said she remembers men in full armor gear carrying large guns.
“I was shocked, afraid and a little confused when we boarded the bus because we weren’t sure what would happen next or where we were going,” Bray said.
Suddenly in the pitch darkness one of the men in the riot gear made an announcement.
"He said, ‘my name is Capt. Patrick Yoes and you have been rescued by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office,” Bray said.
We all laughed, cried, and cheered.”
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