Big Island nurse assists with Sandy relief


North Hawaii Community Hospital Infection Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Rabalais recently served a 10-day deployment with the Hawaii Disaster Medical Assistance Team to assist in superstorm Sandy relief efforts.

Hawaii DMAT is a trained corps of 75 medical professionals who respond to calls for medical surge, disaster and humanitarian assistance throughout the United States and the Pacific Region and provide on-scene, high-acuity casualty care services. Hawaii DMAT is part of HAH Emergency Services, a division of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, which provides emergency preparedness and operations management services to health care coalition members across the state.

Rabalais and 24 fellow Hawaii DMAT members were deployed to New York on Nov. 12 to help medical shelter areas consolidate and relieve federal disaster workers.

“I was assigned to a shelter called Park Slope in Brooklyn, N.Y., that housed nearly 600 people following the storm, but was down to around 150 when we arrived,” Rabalais said. “The remaining occupants had been residents of an assisted-living facility that was destroyed by flood waters. We provided acute medical care for shelter occupants and volunteers who had developed illnesses or injuries, in addition to overseeing the closure of the facility; the last occupants were transferred to a more permanent situation while their facility was to be rebuilt.”

Rabalais previously deployed to Guam to provide relief after a hurricane hit Saipan and served with an Acute Care Module in Kapiolani Park on Oahu during the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference.

“I am extremely privileged to work with Hawaii DMAT,” Rabalais said. “It is some of the hardest work I have ever done, but it is very rewarding. … I am very grateful NHCH has been understanding and supportive of my work with DMAT, making it possible for me to continue to participate in relief work such as this.”