AP

A Katrina survivor with a disability tells her story

Oct 13, 2022, 5:06 AM | Updated: 5:51 am

Karen Nix sits in her home before leaving for her evening work shift in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. ...

Karen Nix sits in her home before leaving for her evening work shift in New Orleans, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022. Nix tells her story of surviving hurricanes Katrina and Ida while living with cerebral palsy. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Karen Nix was working at Tulane Medical Center, monitoring the vitals of patients, when the levees failed and Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans on August 29, 2005.

By evening the medical center was inundated – water rose several feet into the first floors of buildings. Everyone in the hospital spent the night on upper floors, waiting for their chance to get out. Nix, who usually worked the night shift on the fifth floor, continued to attend to patients. Then the backup generators began to fail.

Conditions deteriorated, especially for Nix, who has mobility issues caused by cerebral palsy. “I remember that it was hot and we didn’t have power, so it was miserable,” she said. Medical staff began gathering in pockets of the hospital where it was cooler. That crowded Nix, who uses a walker.

The next day patients started climbing stairs to the seventh floor of the parking garage, where Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters waited. As part of the hospital staff, Nix stayed behind another night, caring for patients that remained.

When it looked like her turn had finally come, Nix needed help climbing two flights of stairs. The elevators weren’t running. Nix and other medical staff ended up spending a third night in the parking garage, using a makeshift bathroom, before finally boarding helicopters that took them to a shelter in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Using that commode chair, surrounded by borrowed emergency room curtains for privacy – is burned into her memory.

“I worked the whole time and it was horrible …. That was a difficult time for me because of my disability,” she said.

Nix, 59, has lived with cerebral palsy most of her life. She was diagnosed when she was six and said because it isn’t as severe as for some people, she has been able to work, go to school and graduate from college.

Still, she imagines a world where she would not have to work when hurricanes and storm surges are on the horizon, but would instead get some type of disability pay since most places she’s worked, even hospitals, become inaccessible during disasters.

That way, she could spend more time making preparations to get out of town. She can’t board up the windows of her house in New Orleans East to withstand potential wind damage. And in the event that rain and wind damage her home, she can’t do the cleanup.

She has support, though. She is married and has children, so her family are often the ones to fortify the house before a storm and clean up the damage.

But not all disabled people in regions getting hit by climate-related disasters have that support. She said local, state and federal governments don’t create adequate emergency plans for people with disabilities, whether for hurricanes, floods or wildfires.

“I think you get left out of the equation if you’re not self-sufficient or don’t know how to get the resources you need,” Nix said, “or if you don’t have someone to be a voice for you.”

___

Follow Drew Costley on Twitter: @drewcostley.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Arizona and New York attorneys feud over extraditing suspect...

Associated Press

Why Alvin Bragg and Rachel Mitchell are fighting over extraditing suspect in New York hotel killing

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says she isn't into extraditing a suspect due to her lack of faith in Manhattan’s top prosecutor.

3 days ago

A Gila monster is displayed at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Dec. 14, 2018. A 34-year-old Color...

Associated Press

Colorado man dies after being bitten by pet Gila monster

A Colorado man has died after being bitten by his pet Gila monster in what would be a rare death by one of the desert lizards if the creature's venom turns out to have been the cause.

4 days ago

Police clear the area following a shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs NFL football Super Bowl celebr...

Associated Press

1 dead, many wounded after shooting at Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

One person died after 22 people were hit by gunfire in a shooting at the end of the Kansas Chiefs' Super Bowl victory celebration Wednesday.

11 days ago

This image from House Television shows House Speaker Mike Johnson of La., banging the gavel after h...

Associated Press

GOP-led House impeaches Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas — by one vote — over border management

Having failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas the first time, House Republicans are determined to try again Tuesday.

12 days ago

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya's Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during...

Associated Press

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized with bladder issue

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue."

14 days ago

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church, stands with his wife, Victoria Osteen, as he conducts a...

Associated Press

Woman firing rifle killed by 2 off-duty officers at Houston’s Lakewood Church run by Joel Osteen

A woman entered the Texas megachurch of Joel Osteen and started shooting with a rifle Sunday and was killed by two off-duty officers.

14 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

A Katrina survivor with a disability tells her story