Ten years almost to the day, August 30th, 2005. I was the Executive Producer at dLife TV. Our TV’s were always on watching many stations and many aspects of the news. This day was different from most because Hurricane Katrina made landfall the day before. Louisiana and Mississippi were devastated.
Such a horror story. So far away and not much we could do from where I sat but perhaps make a donation……and pray. A photo popped on the screen. The water level jut below the roof line of a house and painted in red on the roof………”HELP–Need Insulin”.
That’s bad. I thought. I made one phone call. Another. Another. And another, I honestly believe that for the next 7 days I did not get more than 7 hours sleep. It’s all kind of blur today because things were happening at a pace that was beyond control. We reached out to people everywhere. I made two key contacts. Dr. Steven Smith at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, and KC Arnold, a CDE Nurse Practitioner, at the Gulf Coast Endocrinology Center in Mississippi.
They became point people for an incredible grass-roots relief effort that became one of the driving forces in saving many, many lives. We rallied the world in getting diabetes supplies from one-on-one individuals to powerhouse like the IDF; and sent everything down to these two mega stars of relief. DHL agreed to do all of the shipping for free and even in the immediate days that followed….they were getting supplies through the ravaged areas, somehow, to Dr. Smith and KC Arnold.
A million times I spoke to both of them giving them updates and telling them what was being shipped down to them. Supplies came to us at the dLife office, we re-boxed them all and shipped them to Dr. Smith and KC Arnold. Howard Steinberg, who owned dLife at the time, turned all of our offices into a relief center. When I went into his office after I first saw the picture of the man on the roof, his words still ring in my ears, “Run with this. Make a difference.” Press releases went out and we notified every one of the incredible needs in the hurricane-slammed area; we built it, and boy did it come.
At one point DHL was coming 3 times a day and we were filling their truck with supplies and down they would go to Dr. Smith and KC Arnold. The story goes on much, much longer but the result was this; 10,000 people received a 3 months-supply of diabetes supplies orchestrated by these two wonderful people. 10,000 people in the furthest parishes in both states. It was JUST incredible.
After a few weeks, we closed this chapter. I heard back from Dr. Smith and KC Arnold once more as they shared their results. Both sent me the warmest of letters, which hang on my wall in my office. I remember that, at the time, my exhaustion was only surpassed by my exhilaration.
I read somewhere that they both continued on in their lives and in fact, when KC was faced with closing her satellite emergency office and leaving those people without care; she decided to open her own practice at the worst possible time, but her patients would come first. That practice not only survived, it now thrives. But working with her through Katrina and coming to know her passion and her drive…….this does not surprise me at all.
Anyway…….life went on. So I am here at the AADE this week back in New Orleans. On the way in, I remember driving by such incredible and sad land marks that we all saw on the news. I thought to myself, ten years…….wow. I thought of Dr. Smith and KC Arnold; two people I never met but worked so diligently to make a difference.
Yesterday, I’m speaking in a meeting entitled, “Disaster Relief, What we Learned from Katrina” about a few things we learned. I speak of Dr. Smith and KC Arnold and what the take-away should be during this type of relief effort…..it all is becoming so fresh in my mind again.
So last night is a gathering by Tandem. They threw an incredible night of fun and socializing, a break from meetings and sessions. I’m having a picture taken by the roving reporter with some friends of mine and a woman is standing there and she says to the photographer, while pointing at me, “I want my picture with that man.” Well my male-ego is flattered as it is rare that a gorgeous woman, who I do not know, says anything like that to me.
She walks toward me and says, “Tom, I’m KC Arnold.”
I literally burst into tears right there. Literally. We hugged for about 5 minutes. I just could not believe that this woman, this incredible powerhouse who I only spoke to on the phone; after ten years, was hugging me. Maybe it was the fact that once the efforts were over, we all moved on and I never really allowed myself an emotional release. A job needed to get done, and it needed a lot of effort and time…….not emotion. But it all came back as we just stood there hugging each other, and shedding tears.
She is pictured with me above. We both walked away and, perhaps, we will not see each other even ever again. But on this night two perfect strangers, who don’t know each other, hugged for a good five minutes because when you go through something like changing the lives of 10,000 people with diabetes…….it’s a life experience never forgotten. And the people who traveled that road with you……..probably….really aren’t strangers at all……are they?
I am a diabetes dad.
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