Medea Gabriel is not a hero, she insists.
During Hurricane Katrina, there were many others she believes are
equally deserving of that title. Her fellow medical staff at New Orleans
Memorial Medical Center who worked while separated from their families. Her
best friend, Monique, who took Medea’s ailing mother to evacuate on her own.
Also, the strangers she remembers driving their personal boats to pick up
patients and staff from the hospital and navigate them to dry land.
But as a nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit, Medea helped wrap
up 16 babies and move them to shelter through a hole in the wall that led to a
truck bed. The truck bed was to take them to a helicopter and then, safety, but
once Medea passed each infant through the wall, she had no idea if outside realities
would let that happen.
Today, she knows that nearly all of those babies somehow survived on
the way to their destination, Baton Rouge Women’s Hospital. While one of them
did pass away, she doesn’t know how or when, because that hospital has since
closed. She recently got a Facebook message from one of the mothers who wanted
to thank her for what she did that day.
“It was surreal to know how much I impacted her life and that she
remembered me,” Medea said. “Just knowing that these kids are now 10 years old
lets me go on.”
When Medea transported those infants that day, she says she was simply
doing her job. Once the job was complete, she turned her full attention toward
her mother, whom she sent with her best friend to get on a boat to safety. She
had to pack up her mother’s medicine, waterproof her medical records and dosage
instructions and staple them to the inside of her mother’s clothes so they
didn’t get lost. She then sent her two loved ones off to stay with a college
roommate whom she believed in her heart would take them in, but she didn’t know
for sure. It was the second big moment that day where she had to simply act.
Thankfully, two days later – after Medea herself had to leave the
hospital not knowing her next resting place – she found out that her mother
was, in fact, alive.
While many things have changed for Medea since then, like a new job and
also a new husband, she has returned home to New Orleans and works with
pediatric patients once again, this time doing HIV research.
“I’m in a totally different place than I was before Katrina,” she said.
“I’ve found peace and joy in this recovery.”
Note: You can hear more
of Medea’s story in a four-part podcast created by Good360, a disaster relief organization that works to improve the way
communities can connect with much-needed supplies.