Nobody asks if you have psoriasis in the middle of a flood

| Gene Griffin

(Editor’s note: In Griffin’s first post, he wrote about a turning point in his life and his adventures in raising money and awareness to fight psoriatic disease. In this post, he updates us on another life-changing event: Hurricane Harvey.) 

I’m originally from the west Houston area. I spent most of my school years there and still have many friends in this area. Houston has always been very near and dear to my heart. 

I live northwest of Austin and was driving to work the morning of Monday, Aug. 28. Hurricane Harvey had just hit the Gulf Coast and devastated a few coastal towns I am very familiar with. Houston has a propensity to flood, so I knew my hometown was going to be hit hard. All I could think about was the millions of people who might be affected. 

About 15 minutes into my commute, I pulled over and made a last-minute decision that I was going to go to Houston (about 175 miles away) and do what I could to help. With my training in the water, I felt I had something to offer and could be of use. This would prove to be spot-on. I called my boss and wife and explained the calling I felt to go help my fellow Houstonians. They were both supportive. 

Leap of faith

At this time, I had neither a plan nor a boat to run rescue and recovery operations in the floodwaters. I called my neighbor and told him I needed to borrow his bass boat. He must have thought I was crazy at first. After explaining myself, he graciously agreed to let me borrow the boat. I threw what gear I thought I would need in my truck, phoned a friend who also felt the calling to help, and we caravanned to Houston with boat in tow. 

As we neared the Houston area, the rain grew heavier and the sky got darker. When we arrived, we could see floodwaters overtaking highways. Because we were fortunate enough to have high-clearance vehicles, the authorities allowed us to continue past the roadblocks. I think the fact that we had a boat and wanted to aide helped us in gaining access. 

After driving around for a while, trying to figure out where to go, we finally connected with a well-organized volunteer group and my brother, Jason, who lives in the Houston area. Jason is a combat veteran with Special Forces training, so his expertise was a great addition to our team. 

This volunteer group had makeshift command centers set up in their homes and were running dispatch for volunteer rescuers with boats. We focused primarily on the Cinco Ranch area of Katy. This entire community was underwater. We ran rescue missions for roughly 36 hours straight and rescued more than 40 people and eight pets. 

People at their best, when things are at their worst

As devastating as this event was, it was the most inspiring thing I have ever been a part of. We worked alongside volunteer rescuers from all over the U.S. Nobody’s race, religion or culture mattered. People needed help, and people came to help. It restored a lot of my faith in humanity. 

It was very important to my team that we kept a smile on our faces when we rescued people. Some of these folks had lost just about everything they owned. They didn’t know where their kids would go to school. They still had loved ones missing. We thought a smile and maybe a light-hearted joke would go a long way, and they did. 

Since that event I have joined a fantastic first responder organization called Texas Search and Rescue, or TEXSAR. I will be receiving useful training specifically in what is called “swiftwater” rescue. I’ve also been recruited by the Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment. My training will focus on swiftwater rescue and emergency boat operator training. I will serve communities in need and feed that adventure bug inside of me. 

This is a prime example of what my quest, Adventuring for a Cure, is all about. You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned psoriasis once. That is because psoriasis had no say in what I set out to do. Did my psoriasis itch while wading through chest-deep, nasty water? Sure it did. Did that stop me from doing what I felt needed to be done and saving lives? No! Do not let psoriasis hold you back from living your life to the fullest. And stay tuned for more Adventuring for a Cure success stories.

 


Driving Discovery, Creating Community

This year, we’re celebrating 50 years of driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. See how far we’ve come with this timeline of NPF’s history. But there’s still plenty to do, and we can’t do it without you! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funding to promote research into better treatments and a cure by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or even create your own DIY event. Contact our Patient Navigation Center for free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today! Together, we will find a cure.

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