Kathy Yaste wanted to help those affected by the recent hurricanes, so she made the trip from Colchester to Moline for the Red Cross Just In Time training on Saturday, September 9. Kathy listened carefully to training instructors Gayle Lundeen and Paul Soebbing, so she would be prepared for what to expect, if she were to deploy to help with the hurricane relief efforts.
On September 14, just days after completing the training, Kathy was asked to go to Florida and work on a shelter team helping to provide a safe place to stay for residents displaced by Hurricane Irma. Kathy dug into her duties at the shelter and went to great lengths to provide care to special needs residents in the shelter to make their stay as comfortable as possible considering the circumstances.
Kathy’s story doesn’t end with her exemplary work in the shelter. Kathy and her Red Cross partner were traveling back to Jacksonville from a shelter across the state line in Georgia. Kathy, in the front passenger seat, was focused on the road as traffic was heavy on the divided four lane roadway. Just as she glanced across the four lanes of traffic, she witnessed a truck traveling in the wrong direction hit a vehicle head on – hitting the vehicle with such force that it spun the vehicle off the road. The truck sped off without stopping. Kathy asked her partner to stop their vehicle. Once stopped, Kathy risked her own life as she threaded her way across four lanes of heavy traffic to reach the accident scene. Kathy immediately called 9-1-1- and started stabilizing the 38-year-old woman, who had facial lacerations, broken ribs and the possibility of a spinal cord or neck injury from the severe impact. After a quick examination, Kathy knew she needed her first aid kit, which was back in her vehicle. Kathy made the dash back across four lanes of traffic and back again – this time with the first aid kit in hand.
Back at the scene of the accident, Kathy quickly removed a towel from her pack and placed it around the woman’s neck to provide some stabilization. Kathy also applied pressure to the lacerations and bandaged them as best as she could. As Kathy provided comfort and care to the woman, several road workers stopped and helped to direct traffic away from the accident. Kathy knew the importance of keeping the woman engaged in conversation until medical help arrived, so she asked the woman’s name, her age and also took a quick medical history. During this time, Kathy also learned that the young woman had lost everything in Hurricane Irma and what few possessions she had left were in her now crashed vehicle.
As soon as medical help arrived, Kathy approached the tow truck driver and police and asked if they could help to retrieve the woman’s possessions from her vehicle before it was towed from the scene. With her few personal possessions in the ambulance with her, the young woman was transported to the hospital for treatment.
With the woman was on her way to the hospital, Kathy and her co-worker resumed their trip back to the Jacksonville staff shelter. Upon arrival, Kathy’s heroic actions were quickly shared among the Red Cross workers in the staff shelter. Kathy has some health issues of her own, and it was decided as a precaution that she should be checked over at the local hospital. Kathy was released after a quick examination and again returned to the staff shelter.
Kathy was honored by the Red Cross for her heroic actions. She received a letter from the Deputy District Director highlighting her extraordinary service in the shelter and her heroic actions in helping the accident victim.
Kathy has returned home to Colchester. She is tired and somewhat overwhelmed by her experience. She comments that she has no idea how she was able to make the trip back and forth in heavy traffic since she has COPD and other health issues, but she says that she would do it again in a minute.
Kathy Yaste impacted many lives during her deployment and the Red Cross is grateful for dedication and her heroic actions.