Tulsa Nurse Remembers Mission To Help Hurricane Katrina Survivors

Wednesday, August 26th 2015, 7:20 am
By: News On 6

Saturday, August 29 marks 10 years since Hurricane Katrina devastated cities along the Gulf Coast.  Thousands were forced from their homes and billions of dollars in damage occurred.

But help came from around the world, including Tulsa when some local nurses went to help in Baton Rouge.  

If there is one thing for certain, Oklahomans know natural disasters.  We are experts at surviving and thriving after tornadoes, earthquakes, floods and fires.  

So, it is no surprise that there were plenty of volunteers from the Sooner state willing to help out after Katrina hit Louisiana, including a group of nurses from Tulsa's Hillcrest hospital.  

"I think it's one of those things that on the one hand it seems so long ago and on the other hand, when I realized it had been ten years, you think it can't possibly be," said critical care nurse Jenny Kowitziky.  

On a hot September day in 2005, Jenny Kowitziky flew out of Tulsa on a volunteer mission.

"We were in a small plane, so we kind of bonded on the way down because no one really knew what to expect," said Kowitziky.  

In all, 16 people from Hillcrest Hospital spent 11 days assisting the staff at a small hospital in Baton Rouge.  

"We would just fan out and go work our 12 hour shift or our 18 hour shift and in the evening we'd go and try and find something to eat, find an empty patient lounge, watch TV for awhile and go to bed and do it again the next day," said Jenny Kowitziky.  

Seventy miles from "Ground Zero" in New Orleans, the Tulsans didn't treat the most traumatic cases but they did provide invaluable support.

"You go down with your head full of...I'm going to be a hero and go into this war zone and it wasn't like that, but we did see people who had come out and they were without exception I think, very glad to be out and in a place where there was light and water and people to help them and food," said Jenny Kowitziky.  

Jenny says those patients did just as much for her as she did for them.  

"That feeling of being able to help people when they need it and also that feeling of bonding with people who are trying to do the same thing.  That just adds..so much to life, so I'm very grateful for having had that experience," said Jenny Kowitziky.  

Officials say 1,833 people died in Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, including dozens while trapped inside hospitals which had lost power.  

6 In The Morning anchor Rich Lenz is reporting from New Orleans through Friday on the impact of Hurricane Katrina, 10 years later.  You can follow him on Twitter.