As General Manager of Environmental Services at Beverly Hospital, Javier Escobar is used to helping people. That’s why he didn’t hesitate when he received an email asking for volunteers to assist with Hurricane Michael relief efforts at Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Florida.
“We were prepared for what we were going to see,” Javier said. “We knew just how much damage there was to the hospital and surrounding buildings. But the personal side of things — there’s no way to prepare for that. So many people lost homes, and many didn’t have insurance.”
Unfortunately, the losses Javier learned about during his stay weren’t limited to the hurricane. “We found out that one housekeeper had decided to relocate with her family in anticipation of the storm. They were cooking in their new apartment one night and the house caught fire. She lost both her mother and her five year-old. Just heartbreaking to hear.”
Javier joined a team of more than a dozen other health care workers from across the country in the relief effort. Everyone worked from morning to night — cleaning and removing damaged materials from various areas of the hospital. Javier, who — in addition to his day job — is also an obstacle course racing endurance runner, said that the manual labor was not difficult. “Again, it was the emotional impact that was so draining. Once I returned, I told my team it was going to take a while for me to feel normal again.”
Would he go again, and would he recommend it to others?
“Absolutely. People need help after something like this. It was refreshing to see so many people join the effort. And it definitely gives you a new-found appreciation for life, family and all the little things you take for granted.”
Any advice for people who decide to assist in disaster areas?
“Be as prepared as you can be! Bring distractions, because disasters will wear you out emotionally. I made sure to download movies to my phone — remember, wi-fi and cellular service often aren’t working in affected areas.”
For more information on Hurricane Michael relief efforts and how to donate, check out the Red Cross.