“FEMA and Red Cross abandoned us. They left us as soon as Ike came, even when our homes flooded and our power went out. No one cared,” Johnny tells me as I stir a pot of soup. “You are the only help we have seen.”
Welcome to the Bayou. No one has much, but they are all willing to feed you. Their homes are tipped over, but they want to make sure you have somewhere to stay.
Folks need their blood pressure checked. They haven’t had insulin since September 1. Mothers need someone to hold their babies while they gather a box of shampoo and clothes. We bandage cuts and hold hands when they cry. Everything is flooded that recovered after Katrina. The cemetary was ravaged. Graves are open. Caskets floated off. Hearts are broken and lives are put on hold. Sure, the boats were broken. The homes were trashed. The people down here will fix it up and get back to normal before they know it. The bayou is strong, but folks still hurt.
Most of our patients are diabetic. They have high blood pressure. Diet has really affected the general health. Mothers tell us stories about all of the complications in their pregnancies and how many weeks premature their babies were. People are choosing which prescriptions to fill, as they don’t have enough money to fill them all. It is nothing new for indigenous and poor communities. We can’t treat all of their ailments or make everything better, but we hold hands, make teas, give hugs and give hugs. It isn’t emergency medicine, this is something different. Through our open hands and hearts we hope to show that people care about a little town in southern Louisiana that FEMA left behind.
We call ourselves the Rubber Boot Medical Collective. We cannot fix most of the problems–reprecussions of physical and cultural genocide, classism and isolation–but we sit in a clinic made out of tarps and flats to try and mend what we can.