As Hurricane Dorian’s destructive power bore down on the Florida coast, Cearlock was busy saving a man’s life.
In the beginning of September, Hurricane Dorian was making headlines as a Category 5 Hurricane, ripping through the Bahamas with catastrophic wind speeds. It was expected to make landfall in Florida, but instead it diverted from its path and slowly made its way along the Eastern Coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Jana Cearlock, a Carmi native and a Pediatric Nurse at Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Indiana, made the decision to volunteer in the Hurricane Relief for The American Red Cross.
Before Dorian made landfall, Jana Cearlock wrote a letter to her boss at Deaconess. In her letter, she talked about the humanitarian aspect of Deaconess, the compassion and Christianity of their views and how it coincides with The American Red Cross. Within fifteen minutes, she was approved and she quickly went to the “Volunteer Connection” on The American Red Cross website. Cearlock was amazed at the quick response right after she applied, “At 8:30 the next morning I received an email saying that ‘you have been deployed, you’re flying out tomorrow.’ I was shocked and getting mentally prepared to pack.” She had a full day of work and a night of packing before she made her way to a shelter in Jacksonville, Florida, on September 2.
September 3 was a day Cearlock would never forget. She was handing out shampoos and body wash at a shelter in Jacksonville, when a gentleman walked past and said ‘thank you’ before taking a couple of steps and falling to the floor. She and her EMT partner, Aaron, immediately went into position to help save the mans life. As the seconds passed, the man’s color started fading away. “Aaron held his head, in case he would seize, and I put my hand on his carotid artery to make sure he had a pulse. I was watching his breathing and suddenly he started doing intermitted breaths and then stopped.” She started chest compressions while Aaron ran to get a breathing mask. Minutes went by and finally the man took a breath and his heartbeat returned. As the EMT arrived and whisked the man away to get additional help, Cearlock was in a state of shock. “Everything went calm in that moment. It became completely quiet and I didn’t hear anything or anybody, the only person I heard was my shelter manager. He had 911 on the phone and he was praying at the same time.”
Cearlock spent a week in Florida before changing locations and aiding with Hurricane Relief in North Carolina for six days.
Volunteering is an easy decision for Cearlock, she enjoys helping others and putting smiles on people’s faces during their time of need, and Hurricane Dorian was not her first Hurricane Relief. She helped with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in 2017, and Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael, both in 2018. Hurricane Michael was the most destructive relief she had ever experienced, “I was in Panama City and the entire city was just gone, like a bomb had went off. One lady had a horrible puncture wound through her foot from a post going through it. I took a clean trash bag and dumped water and bleach into it and soaked the woman’s foot two or three times a day.”
Not all relief stories are traumatizing. Cearlock spoke of all the wonderful big corporations that donate many beneficial items to the evacuees. Home Depot and Salvation Army have sent buckets to the shelters to help individuals clean up their homes from Red Tide or Black Mold. During Hurricane Michael, she shared a heart-warming story about a local Walmart in Panama City Beach: “It was October and there were so many children in the shelter. I called the local Walmart to ask if I could come get some items for the kids and they told me to take whatever I need. I went in there with a shopping cart and got a costume for every single child in the shelter, along with tons of candy. I asked each parent to pick out a costume for their child, to surprise them. We had a Halloween party with cookies and candy. All the volunteers had trick-or-treat stations set up. The kids loved it!”
After Hurricane Dorian, Cearlock decided that she would stick to post hurricane relief, “It causes my family less stress, and I miss my daughter and granddaughters birthdays, but my family was very understanding."