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Hurricane Ike and West Houston

Sep 18, 2008 - 9 comments









It finally happened.  I suffered a most embarrassing nervous breakdown in public Wednesday afternoon.  What led to my maudlin display was the last disaster in a daily downward-spiraling series since storm preparations began a week ago.

Hurricane Ike made an early appearance in my Bear Creek neighborhood Friday evening.  The festivities began with a domestic dispute two doors down between a divorced couple with four children.  Despite a long-standing restraining order, the ex-husband appeared for the second time that day making threats and beating on his ex-wife.  In the presence of all of his children and one nephew, the wife’s boyfriend shot the ex-husband.

For several hours, our quiet cul-de-sac was filled with over a dozen police cars, a fire engine, ambulance, and crime scene vehicles.  The ex-husband was taken to a hospital and is expected to fully recover soon.  The shooter was placed in a police vehicle and released on our street at approximately 11:15 p.m. when Ike really started getting his act in gear.  The officers apparently determined he acted in self defense.  He waited on the sidewalk for two hours before someone picked him up and drove him away.  

During this fiasco, not one person watching the entertainment unfold paid one bit of attention to the three little boys ages 7 to 9.  Not the mother, not the grandmother, nor the older sisters.  As luck had it, our good friend and owner of Lakeview Montessori in Sugar Land, Clarissa Guidry, was staying with us during the storm.  This woman worked a magic that was a wonder to behold.  Asking no leading questions at all, she let the boys vent a few minutes and then got them playing games with water bottles.  For over two hours Clarissa took those children in hand and did everything she could to make life as normal as possible for them.  Not many people have that gift.  I certainly don’t.  Seeing someone who is truly gifted with children in action is nothing short of watching a miracle.

Our area received a glancing blow from Ike’s western eye wall, and in spite of horrific tree and fence damage, most homes survived intact.  We lost power at 2:45 a.m. and considered ourselves very lucky indeed.  As the rain and wind subsided, people emerged from their homes to assess damage and begin cleanup activities.  Phone calls to loved ones were made and experiences compared as we all took a collective breath and thanked God for our lives.

The real tragedy occurred early Sunday morning with the passage of the cool front that has made living without power bearable.  That front brought training rains to west and northwest Houston resulting in serious flooding.  We came within an inch of joining many homes that had an inch to over a foot of water in them.  Our phone service was out.  Our cell service was out.  Our water and sewer systems died.  We couldn’t remain here in those conditions, but neither could we leave.  No mention of Bear Creek was made on any media outlets.  We were completely cut off from the rest of the world.

I couldn’t reach my elderly disabled mother across Highway 6 in Glencairn.  She vehemently refused to evacuate her home in spite of having little ice, food or water.  We were flooded in the rest of the day, and couldn’t get word to anyone to check on my mother.  She was in the exact same predicament and extremely panicked.  I later learned that my cousin, Eric Van Alstine, who is a superintendent at Harris County Precinct 3, waded to her house with a huge pack of frozen bottled water.  He knew she would be in trouble and went out in that mess to check on her and anyone else in trouble.  Another of God’s mercies during this disaster.

Sunday afternoon saw our ice supply nearly gone and no supplies could be found in this area.  We threw out every scrap of food in two refrigerators.  That’s a frightening smell I hope I never have to endure again.  Clarissa came to the rescue and drove all the way from Sugar Land where she had power, and brought us ice scavenged from her neighbors with electric service.  I can’t imagine how horrific that trip must have been with so many tangled traffic signals and stunned Houstonians on the road.  She saved us from utter disaster.

By Monday, we were able to find a few stores opening on generator power that had a few bags of ice.  We actually jumped up and down in celebration in the parking lot when ice was located.  Forget winning the lottery.  We had ice!  A woman in the neighborhood drove to Brookshire, loaded her truck with as much ice and water as it would hold and freely distributed it through the neighborhood refusing all offers of payment.  Such acts of kindness are common these days, and I hope it continues.

That night my sister, Karen, drove from Cypress to check on Mom and bring her a hot meal.  Conditions at Mom’s house had deteriorated to unlivable in spite of the return of water and sewer service.  Again, Mom refused to budge.  She was down to two candle stubs and only one battery operated lamp.  She refused to open one window in her home and it was a sweat box.  Her food situation was atrocious consisting primarily of warm yogurt and a pint of lukewarm milk.  After hearing the story, I had enough.  My husband and I could barely keep ourselves going and my sister was running out of gas driving all the way from Cypress every day trying to keep Mom alive.

Tuesday morning I girded my loins, took a deep breath and confronted Mom with the reality of her very tenuous situation.  I displayed a duffle bag and informed her it was Moving Day.  Yes, it was an extremely emotional situation on top of one disaster after another.  Yes, it was unpleasant for both of us, but in two hours both Mom and her cat were relocated to my sister’s family in Cypress.  She has a private room, power, television, internet availability, three meals a day, contact with other people and the outside world, and she’s angrier than a killer bee with every passing day.  She is also safe.  Praise God!

Yesterday evening we experienced another miracle with the return of electric power.  Roughly 25% of our subdivision is back online with no new additions today.  The celebratory shouts and screams were shortly followed by kids shooting off fire crackers.  How did they get their hands on them so quickly?  Wonderful as it is to have some return to normalcy, we discovered our air conditioner compressor drowned in Sunday’s flood.  Not good, but certainly bearable in comparison to the all too real devastation to our south and east.  The unseasonably and blessedly cool weather makes having no AC any kind of hardship.

Come today, Wednesday, I was forced to turn my attention to my own chronic medical condition.  Abdominal scar tissue has taken ten years to tie my intestines into painful and nauseating knots.  The most important medication that allows me to lead somewhat of a normal life is the fentanyl patch.  It is an extremely strong narcotic that is slowly dispensed over three days.  It is also a schedule II narcotic which means that each refill must be written in triplicate on paper and reported to the DEA.  No phone-in refills are allowed.  If I stop taking it immediately, I will go into withdrawal that can be deadly.  Because this medicine is so tightly controlled by the DEA, it cannot be refilled early.  Ever.  My typical luck, I was due for a refill yesterday.  

Two days ago I started calling my pain doctor’s office.  No phone service.  No answering service.  Yesterday evening after listening to twenty rings, the answering service picked up.  I never got a chance to leave a message.  Once the woman heard my doctor’s name, she said, “They don’t have power.  Call back tomorrow.”  Click.  I got the same treatment this morning.

Withdrawal symptoms had already begun.  Everyone is a bit different, but with me it starts with a noticeable increase in pain levels, shortly followed by chills, diarrhea and nausea.  Within a few hours the real fun begins with vomiting and unimaginable restless leg syndrome all over my body.  I found that out the hard way when I forgot to replace my patch one time.  

I went to the pain doc's office.  No lights, no note, no nothing.  I went to the hospital wher my pain doc, gastro doc and surgeon work.  The ER people were great.  I brought all my bottles of meds with the labels and they were very understanding.  However, I would have to wait easily 8 hours because of all the heart attacks, strokes, gunshot wounds and life-threatening emergencies.  The triage nurse suggested I walk over to the professional building to see if my surgeon was in - he being the only one of my docs in that particular facility.

The surgeon's office was staffed, and the nurse treated me like some scumbag addict off the streets.  She never bothered to look up my voluminous history with Dr. Kim Keller, but (get ready) called security on me while she pretended to look up my records!!!  I told her the ER sent me over here to try to expedite my situation, but no, this complete and total nazi went left field on me.  While I waited for her to supposedly look up my file, I started crying.  I am not an emotional person, but I was just done in.  She came back, thrust her finger forcefully toward my face and yelled, "YOU have to go BACK to the ER NOW!"  I never raised my voice.  I never cursed her.  I never treated her rudely.  I only cried and walked back out.  As I reached the door, the security guard got off the elevator and walked directly toward me.  He followed me back into the elevator, down to the first floor, through the lobby and out the door.  I have no idea who that woman was, but believe me I will find out.  If she is a nurse, I will get her name and license number and she's getting a major report to the Board of Nursing.

Back I go to the ER.  The triage nurse who sent me to the professional building was appalled and tried to expedite me, but honestly - what could she do against a stroke victim?  I called my husband and asked him to call my gastro doc while I waited.  Dr. Toland's staff was fabulous and put out the fire in 15 minutes.  His nurse called Dr. Toland, who called my pain doc's private number.  Next thing you know, she's calling me on my cell phone.  Dr. Wiggins personally drove to the nearest open pharmacy and wrote the triplicate prescription right there and then.  Done.

Had the answering service actually listened, this mess never would have happened. If the government wasn't so concerned with persecuting legal, legitimate pain patients this mess never would have happened. Thank God it's done for now.

Today, Thursday, b;rought a huge issue with my mother.  I can't begin to describe it now I'm so upset.  Suffice to say that we spend the entire day finding and assembling a generator so she could go home to her ghetto home with no power.  I have had it.  My sister has had it.  All of us have had it with her BS.  But more on that tomorrow.  For now, I'm done.

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356518 tn?1322263642
by sandee1818, Sep 19, 2008
You had a really hard time this week!
I am so angry at what happened to you at the Dr's office! Have you told the Dr abut it yet?
I would go as far as needed to show that witch she can't treat Pt's that way! That is so unprofessional and rude and just plain out hateful.She needs to be taught a serious lesson!
I am so sorry you have had to endure so much. How is your Mom doing now she is back home, better I hope.
I will keep you in my prayers and certainly hope things get better!

460185 tn?1326077772
by lonewolf07, Sep 19, 2008
I saw "Ike" on the news.  He's a vicious sort of guy/hurricane isn't he.  I hope you and everyone there is safe.  Along with the train derailment in Los Angeles (I have family all along California), it's been a rough week.  Is it appropriate to say prayers for ourselves - for strength and guidance?  If it is - I'm praying.

Hugs to you and hope everything turns out well.

Avatar universal
by Brenndy, Sep 19, 2008
You are quite the historian.  You really would fare well writing a memoir and/or fiction/or?
Excellent synopsis.  Thanks for the outstanding blow-by-blow coverage of ravaging Ike.

Avatar universal
by rliz, Sep 19, 2008

What a horrific week it's been for you!  Thank goodness you're okay.  Your treatment at the surgeon's office was appalling to say the least.  Dr. Wiggins sounds like a saint.  Your mother obviously needs a reality check.  Does she have any idea how much stress she caused everyone else by being so stubborn?  Apparently not.

Mostly I wanted to say that it's such a relief to hear that you made it through despite everything going on around you.  "When it rains, it pours" certainly applies in this case.

Sending you best wishes from Toronto,


365714 tn?1292199108
by MJIthewriter, Sep 19, 2008
I'm glad you're alright. I heard about Ike. Yes he was a mean one...

82861 tn?1333453911
by Jaybay, Sep 20, 2008
Quickly because I'm using another wireless network:  Mom went nuts Thursday and even my saint of a sister had enough and ordered her to pack her bags. Mom scared the cr*p out of her own grandchildren with her tantrum.  Dave and I spent the entire day combing the city for a generator.  $500 and too much grief to consider later, we got it hooked up.  Mom nearly danced in the street when she got out of her chauffer-driven van.  No appology.  No acknowledgement of the incredible amount of work undertaken on her behalf.  

Yesterday the calls started.  It's too noisy with the generator.  It's too hot without AC.  I don't have any food.  Well DUH!  Then she started calling the power company who is doing a heroic job restoring power to well over 3 million homes.  She screamed at the poor girl on the other end of the line, and of course, two hours later her power came back on.  Now she is convinced it was her call that did it.  Dave and I were chainsawing a tree we hadn't been able to get to for all her issues, and missed the TEN calls in 30 minutes she made to our cells.  "You have to come over here right now and plug in my refrigerator and get rid of this generator!"  OMG.  I have SO had enough - and this is the short version.  :-O

Avatar universal
by nevernine, Oct 02, 2008
Excellent account.  I'm in West Houston.  We went for a solid TWO WEEKS with no power.  Even once the power was restored - no Internet or cable.  

For me, yes, the cool front was a blessing but by the following week when the temperatures went back to the 90's and the humidity levels around 80%, the true misery set in.  Overall, though, I found that the whole experience was really an adjustment.  Things weren't terribly horrific.  I work online so I was out of work until just a few days ago.

I DID run into these same medical problems and finally got to the doctor yesterday.  He's had some kind of scare apparently and cut ALL pain meds as well as Carisoprodol.  Just like that.  I am not quite sure what I will do now except perhaps begin the search for a new doctor.  He is an excellent doctor but he moved out from this part of town to first, about 45 minutes from here around the Beltway going South - and now he is in WEBSTER.  It's an hour drive ANYWAY so I wasn't terribly pleased to walk out with some Lodine.

Lodine does help tremendously for pain with the lack of any other medication but of course I am worried about the sickness that should be hitting soon.  I've been there and its not something I look forward to going through.  I can only imagine that even if I knew where to go, I'll be too ill to get there.

I was wondering if you noticed the smell this morning?  Or even the last few mornings.  Last weekend I even smelled a whif of it but I thought it was something else.  By this morning there's no denying that this whole area is affected.  The air smells like decay.  Someone told me its over at the flood plane - on the other side of the wall.  I would have imagined it's just the tons and tons of debris.  I know the streets were simply lined solidly with a 10 foot wall of tree debris on each side of the road and even out in the thoroughfares.  Finally that was carried away two days ago and in my imagination, somewhere, in some heap, the stuff is decaying.  Yet someone who works out at Dairy Ashford says its even much worse there.  It's undeniable this morning - something is affecting the air.  If it is behind the wall, in all that marshy area, I guess it would be from all the trees downed there as well that were not cleaned up since there aren't houses there.

Have you noticed the smell?  That's what I was looking for when I came across your experience with the storm.

Take care,

82861 tn?1333453911
by Jaybay, Oct 02, 2008
Hey Theresa!  It's great to hear from another Ike surviver.  Man, I don't know if I could have made it two weeks without power.  The daily trek for ice (along with my mother's demands) wore me down fast.

I suspect what you're smelling is coming from the water held in Addicks and Barker Reservoirs.  Certainly there is some raw sewage in those waters.  Some of it came from that broken sewer line on my street!  Also, there is one or maybe two lift stations in Bear Creek Park that no doubt flooded - again.  You would have to talk to some one at Commissioner Radack's office (I think its 281 463 6300) get damage information on the park.  

Added to that mess, you're right: there are dead plants and animals at the bottom of that stinking stew.  It won't change until the Army Corps of Engineers decides to release the water and we get some rain to wash the stench away.  Even then, Buffalo Bayou is going to be reeeaaalllll nasty for a while!

82861 tn?1333453911
by Jaybay, Oct 02, 2008
Oops!  I forgot to add that you shouldn't have too terribly many problems getting off the soma since it isn't a narcotic.  I know it has it's own set of withdrawal symptoms, but they aren't as bad as those stemming from opiates.  Of course, with YOU being the one who has to deal with the symptoms, that isn't saying much.  :-)

Have you checked out the Pain Management board here at Med Help?  I pop in there from time to time myself, and I'm certain you'll meet some great folks there.

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