Single mother Sabrina Allen is usually prepared for anything. But when Allen and her young daughters, Bri and Cheyenne, were displaced from Lake Charles following Hurricane Laura, no one could have predicted the challenges ahead of them.
Bri has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, and scoliosis, a spinal condition. She is also triplegic (paralysis in three limbs) and non-verbal. She requires a wheelchair and hospital bed at home for comfort and movement. Adding a devastating hurricane to this already complex medical situation will test even the most resilient of mothers.
As Laura rapidly bore down on the Louisiana coast taking aim at Lake Charles, Allen was faced with a dilemma. Evacuating her home, she was able to use a Hoyer lift to get Bri into her medical transport van, but she was unable to bring the lift with them, restricting her ability to move her daughter with speed and ease.
A Medical and Logistical Dilemma
Both daughters are patients at Children's Hospital in New Orleans and visit often as out-patients. Allen decided it would be best to be closer to the hospital and drove to a hotel that they often stayed at on their frequent visits. Finding it was full to capacity, they were directed to the Residence Inn, where there was a room available, but Allen still faced the daunting task of moving and caring for her daughters alone.
In Lake Charles, Allen could count on the help of a patient care associate three days a week and the use of her Hoyer lift, neither of which were now options. She also had a hospital bed in her home. Now, she and her daughters were confined to a one-bed hotel room.
Paramedic Tiffany Lay and EMT Marc Caylor work for MedPro EMS and were in Louisiana to help care for the community in the wake of Hurricane Laura as part of the Global Medical Response deployment. They, too, were at the Residence Inn, and Allen was fortunate to meet them on her first day staying there. The two EMS professionals came to her aid at a moment’s notice.
A Special Team for a Special Needs Patient
Understanding the special needs of Allen and her daughters, particularly Bri, Lay and Caylor offered to contact the Louisiana Department of Health resource number on the Allens' behalf. Caylor then completed a special needs checklist that he had on-site and contacted the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) Command Center in Gonzales, LA.
The LDH suggested a special-needs facility at the fairgrounds in Gonzalez, LA. But without her Hoyer lift, moving her daughters again would be dangerous and the Marc cautioned Allen that the fairground could have bright lights and loud noises that could trigger Bri to seizure. Allen decided to remain at the hotel and try to get her daughters into Children’s Hospital on an in-patient basis, but discovered her insurance wouldn’t cover the stay.
Going Above and Beyond
Over the next few days, Lay and Caylor called every source they knew and were able to find a Hoyer lift for Bri, but it would cost more than Allen was able to pay. Caylor called his firemen motorcycle club at home and told them he needed $150 from their funds to pay for the equipment. He immediately received their support. Before he could purchase it, though, they found a Hoyer lift through United Cerebral Palsy of New Orleans.
The lift still needed to be transported. Caylor and Lay coordinated with the LDH command center and Homeland Security to have two off-duty New Orleans firemen pick up and deliver the lift and get it into the Allens' room.
With one issue resolved, another remained: Bri didn't have a hospital bed, which was very helpful when feeding and changing her. One was found on Facebook and delivered to the hotel. Caylor and Lay worked with the hotel staff to open an adjoining room, clear it of furniture and position the bed, much to the Allen daughter’s delight.
But Caylor and Lay did not stop there. Lay volunteered to assist with diaper changes and moving Bri three or four times a day. And both of them took turns watching the girls to allow Allen time to attend to personal needs and to simply get a break. They also worked with Angels Place, a charitable organization, to have clothing, groceries and toiletries delivered to Allen at the hotel.
During this entire multiple-day ordeal, Caylor and Lay went above and beyond for the family. Allen later said she was beyond thankful to have met the two. “They are a blessing to my family and are family to most of us here,” she said. "I trust them one hundred percent with my children even though I’ve only known them for a week.” She added that each step forward started with assistance from Caylor and Lay, who insist they were just doing their job, helping as many people as possible in any way they could.
Thank you to the men and women of MedPro EMS who were part of our network provider team responding to Hurricane Laura. And a special thanks to Paramedic Tiffany Lay and EMT Marc Caylor who went above and beyond.