Reader: Advisory committee should move soon to ensure safe evacuation, shelter

Edith "Dotsy" Fauntleroy Smith
June 3, 2009
Enell Bradley Brown
June 5, 2009

Dear Editor:



I am Dena Bordelon, the widow of Cecil J. Bordelon, whom many will remember because of his many years of devoted service in the Terrebonne Parish School Board.



When Hurricane Katrina threatened our parish, my husband was well enough to travel by car to Lafayette to escape the storm.

We carried oxygen in the car and a plug-in unit for use later. It took eight hours to make the trip, and it took two days before my husband was able to walk with his walker after that long, tiring ride.



In 2005, Cecil was at home on life support. He had a ventilator, a catheter, a pacemaker and was on oxygen and required 24-hour-a-day care.



Beginning in January of that year, I contacted the local Emergency Preparedness person and asked for help in case an evacuation was necessary during the hurricane season.

“No problem,” he said. “Contact the Office of Emergency Preparedness in Thibodaux.”



I did. They immediately referred me back to Houma.



I then called the Baton Rouge office. They said, “Get your local physician to put your husband in the hospital and he will be safe there.”

My doctor refused. “No way,” he said. “Terrebonne General will be evacuated so emergency cases can be handled there.”



I went back to the local, Thibodaux and state agencies. Each one shifted the call to another agency.



The bottom line was that no evacuation center in the state of Louisiana would take a ventilator patient.

Acadian Ambulance told me that they would have to pick Cecil up in an ambulance if I called but that I would have to have a destination. Can you imagine having to try to find a place for a man in this condition not knowing exactly where a hurricane is likely to strike?

I was actually thankful that my husband died before the hurricanes of 2008. Where would we have gone? What would we have done?

And we had the resources to at least try to leave. Think of the many people in lower Terrebonne Parish in similar positions who do not even own a vehicle who would be trapped in rising water.

Obviously, I do not write seeking a personal solution, but to plead for others.

Do you know how many people in this parish are on life support? Do you know how bad the crisis was during Katrina? Do you know that the evacuation was too little, too late for the nursing homes?

Has anyone surveyed to ascertain the need?

Terrebonne Parish’s government has been told its plans for hurricane preparedness are inadequate. Something needs to be done now.

I never like to point out a problem without offering a possible solution. May I recommend that guidelines be set up whereby persons on ventilators or other life-sustaining equipment be provided space in shelters. Family member or other caregivers would be required to accompany them (even as parents are required to accompany children).

Families would also be required to bring portable equipment with them as needed to sustain life.

Guidelines have been set up to save animals. We need guidelines to save all human life.

Dena Bordelon,

Houma, La.