Kingston’s Hyder helps flood victims

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By Stan Gilbert, For Roane Newspapers

She admits her Spanish is somewhat lacking, but a language obstacle didn't prevent Red Cross volunteer Debbie Hyder of Kingston from helping a mostly Hispanic population in Illinois following the April floods.

“If it hadn’t been for a local translator I met while on the disaster relief assignment, I would not have been able to effectively communicate with my clients on my own,” Hyder recalled. “I suppose it goes to show how sometimes help arrives at just the right moment.” The flood added tremendous additional needs to an already impoverished population that Hyder described as “beyond poor.”

Hyder was a nursing supervisor in her assigned Red Cross shelter in Wheeling, Ill., which held about 75 residents from a trailer park. Although she was the only nurse at this shelter in the Chicago suburbs, she was fortunate to have the services of a volunteer medical doctor.

“I think I will always remember one particular 18-month-old child and 10-year-old sibling who gave us a bit of a scare,” she said. “The toddler was sick and getting worse but on top of that, the sibling also became ill. I had them transported to the emergency room for treatment beyond what we were able to provide. I later learned the two children had scarlet fever but, thankfully, made a full recovery.”

She treated people with a wide array of ailments, including earaches, a sty and high-blood pressure.

“One of my clients had been off her medication for weeks and was feeling very ill. I arranged to send her to the ER where she was stabilized and her medication refilled.

“We often hear about the impressively high numbers of people the Red Cross helps,” she said. “I just want to make people understand that each of these numbers tell a story, and thanks to the power of volunteers and generosity of donors, the Red Cross is there to make a difference, one person at a time. The reason we are always asking for volunteers is because of the individual, personal attention we provide during a disaster response.”

In addition to the shelter in Wheeling, Hyder worked in two other Illinois locations including Lisle, with a population of 35 and Des Plains, with 30.

A volunteer since 1980, Hyder has held a number of positions. These include CPR first aid instructor and several positions in Disaster Response, including chief of staffing and client caseworker. She has even been an emergency relief vehicle driver serving meals to the masses. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Hyder was one of the many volunteers who worked day and night for weeks on end at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum caring for those driven from their homes in Louisiana.

She seldom misses the chance to be a Red Cross ambassador. “It’s the best place to help others in their time of greatest need. Plus, I like knowing that we are making a difference both nationally and around the globe.”

One of Debbie’s top recruits is her husband Dan, who signed up two years ago. Since then, he has been on disaster relief in Springfield, Mass., Paducah, Ky., and Minot, N.D. When not volunteering for the Red Cross, he is a professor at Roane State in environmental health technology.

“We’re always glad to go on deployment,” he said. “But returning home can be an adjustment, just finding something to do after two or more weeks of constant activity. I think both Debbie and I have come to feel that if we’re not doing something, we’re wasting time.”

The Hyders encourage others to check out Red Cross volunteer opportunities by calling 584-2999.
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Stan Gibert is director of communications for the American Red Cross’ East Tennessee Region.