Calm waters
“He needs a letter saying he’s disabled so he can get his check. All of his medical records were destroyed.”

His mother handed me a newspaper article clipping with a man of similar height and build pictured. It told of all of his physical disabilities and how he was working to conquer them. A journalistic fluff piece but now they presented it as proof of his condition and identity. 

“He can’t talk and he has to use the cane.”


“He had a stroke.”

“Which side did it affect?” 

“What do you mean?”

“Which side of the brain did it affect?”

“Both sides.”

Odd thing to say but it was not impossible and then sometimes people don’t really understand their medical conditions. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt but a nagging in my gut told me there was something not right. Was I being too judgemental? After all so many people had suffered so much.

Even stranger was that while there was some resemblance to the man in the article photo, they actually appeared to be two different people. I checked the date on the article. Five years. People age, they change with time. This man, though, appeared to be younger than the fellow in the photograph. Furthermore, when I did my exam, he was very clearly faking weakness.

“I am sorry. I cannot write that letter.”

“What? So what is he supposed to do without his check?” Hostility crept into her voice then progressed to outright indignation. “We lost our house, our money, everything we owned. We waded down the street past dead bodies. You have no idea what we have been through.” 

She was right. I had no idea what anyone in New Orleans had been through. Had they actually been there, though? I had no way of knowing for sure. I wanted to give everyone the benfit of the doubt but after several of these, I found myself becoming bitter and jaded.

“Let me send you to a neurologist who has also volunteered to see evacuees for free. Maybe he will have a different opinion….” 

“Forget it!” she yelled back at me.

They both stood and exited the room. I stared after them. He didn’t even bother to maintain the pretense of using the cane at this point.

This is what I remember about Hurricane Katrina… all of the people using the disaster and the very real suffering of hundreds of thousands to further their own interests and the feeling that nothing I did ended up helping a single soul.


98 thoughts on “Katrina

  1. Sad, but some people did try to take advantage of the situation. Unfortunately, there are thousands who did suffer, and many who still. I watched numerous friends go through hell, even months afterward. But there are always parasites ready for a host, no matter what the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sad that people think they can work the system.
    I saw similar horrible stuff happenings to people
    after Hurricane Sandy. In that case people also lost
    home. Some were cheated by dishonest contractors,
    Others were dishonest themselves and put in false

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have similar things here – not the natural disasters such as you experience, – well a few weeks ago a deranged individual drove his car into a crowded pavement (Sidewalk) killing four people and injuring a lot of others. Two more, including a child, have since died in hospital. My reason for telling you this is to also tell you that it was only a few days after this disaster that trolls were scamming cash from the public and pocketing it. Police picked up on them – which was good. There are those who look at an incident and their only thought is how they can scam some benefit from this.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In my 30 years as a counselor, I’ve seen some people put way more energy into fooling the system than into developing the skills to become independent. It’s usually due to a combination of lacking skills and getting into the habit of learned dependence which is sometimes generational. Of course, there are those who do qualify for disability benefits and those who would qualify but push themselves to their limits in trying to be self-sufficient. I bet you see them all.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Reblogged this on MULIEBRAL VIEWPOINT and commented:
    What is the mindset that causes people to practice such deception? Are they lazy? Do they like to live off other people’s dime? What could possibly make a self-respecting human being live like this?


  6. There are still, *still*, people here in New Jersey who are scamming the government out of funds to rebuild homes they never owned. Crooked construction industry scabs preying on folks who actually lost everything. As Charles Bukowski said, “Humanity you sick mother*.”

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. So terribly sad. I really don’t understand welfare mentality even though I was raised on it. My mum used to throw tantrums whenever one of us left school or home because it meant that her benefit would get cut. I found myself a single mother in my 30’s for a few years and took huge pride in not taking any government hand outs during that time. It was tough but we got through. I now have adult kids with great work ethics who tell me how proud they are of me for how we got through. Meanwhile my relationship with my parent is still not fantastic. Trying to explain to somebody that is complaining about how little money they get in benefits that its not meant to be a life style but support during the tough times i.e. a hand up not a hand out, is usually met only with yelling and ‘it’s my right’ conversations. So sad 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I look forward to reading your stories, Victo, because you infuse them with compassion and understanding and insights about human behaviour. The reader is drawn in….hoping you find a way out of the sticky spot the other two clinic visitors put you in. Plus, in this instance, I felt some sadness partnered with a bit of my naiveté…..I guess, because in a disaster situation like Katrina, I hope and think that people will pull together and help one another out instead of stooping so low to deception.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Oh wow. I didn’t realize you had volunteered. In your regular practice, you strive to always help and heal your patients. I imagine you had hopes and a vision of going there and feeling that you have touched lives and helped lives who are struggling in such dire circumstances. Your heart was full of concern, care, love, support, strength…..sharing of your best. And then you had to deal with scenarios that showed the messier, dishonest side of people. Your hesitation to write about this experience for such a long time, I think, reveals how deep it struck you to your core. No wonder you have stayed away. Your doctor work is challenging enough without letting cynicism and discouragement hook into your psyche. Thank you for finding the courage and voice to share your story finally, Victo. ❤

        Liked by 2 people

  10. This is excellent. I moved to New Orleans and it’s interesting seeing the Katrina residue, although it is definitely not blatant like this anymore and has (somewhat) healed over time. I agree, it’s incredibly difficult to sort through various intentions and motives of people you encounter in hospital environments. Sadly enough it leaves a great stain on how you are able to see the world. Anyway, excellent!

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. I know there are people who try to get as much as they can from systems designed to help people in need (they were in need, but not in medical need). These are the memorable stories that many who want to cut social safety net programs point to and say, “People abuse these programs all the time!”

    I know that’s not what you are saying here. But this story is more memorable than the countless other stories of people who needed medical assistance and got it—who didn’t scam the system. And those social support systems are in jeopardy in our nation today.

    And then there are the invisible people, the people who are too proud or who are otherwise unable to avail themselves of programs designed to help them. We can’t count count them, so we don’t talk about them, but they exist.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I, too, remember the horror of Katrina. Houston tried so hard to help and some people were so ungrateful that they wrecked hotels, committed crimes and made us feel suspicious. That said, many people settled here and have added to our community. I will never forget the poor doctors who tried to help their terminally ill patients and were punished for a kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

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