Almost immediately upon his arrival, Hansen was struck by the reality of the situation for so many people who lost their homes and livelihoods. One mother of three sobbed on the shoulder of a police officer, distraught after losing her home to the floods. Others who didn’t have access to important medications had to be monitored closely.
Hansen said he and a colleague had to act fast when a diabetic patient who didn’t have insulin had a blood glucose reading of 427 — about four times a healthy number.
“At that point, he was at risk of serious damage to his body if we didn’t get help right away, and we sent for paramedics,” Hansen said. “That kind of situation, where everything would be more or less routine and under control, then suddenly an emergency occurred, happened about three times a day in the shelters.”
One aspect of his University of Florida College of Medicine training Hansen said has stuck with him throughout his career and into his volunteer work is the idea of putting the patient first and listening to their concerns.
“We always start by asking, ‘How can I help you?’ or ‘What do you need?’ because it’s important to hear these people out,” Hansen said. “Even if you think you know what kind of medical attention they need, if you start with too much of the science, you won’t earn their trust.”
He said being able to help victims of a natural disaster gets to the heart of what he’s liked about being in the medical field: being that glimmer of hope and assurance when people need it most.
“The people staying at the shelters were just so overwhelmingly thankful for the food, water and shelter the Red Cross was providing,” Hansen said. “You can see the weight lift off these people’s shoulders because without this help, they didn’t know where to go next or when they would have their next meal.”