Hurricane Irma, the aftermath

Jeanne & Russ Kolish are 70 and 72 years old respectively. Russ suffers from coronary artery disease and diabetes. Jeanne suffers from severe scoliosis which has left her bedridden for the past 2 years. They are both now suffering from PTSD.  Here is their story.

Hurricane Irma devastated the town of Naples, Florida so extremely that many parts of it now look like a war zone. Early in the day of the hurricane Jeanne and Russ went over to stay at her brother's house because his house is built out of concrete and is stronger than theirs. They stayed there for 3 days without air conditioning in the Florida heat, only to learn her brother hid a fan from them. Russ was taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion and Jeanne for high and extended anxiety.

It became very clear they were not wanted there so on the third day they drove around several towns looking for a motel but couldn't find one with a vacancy.

They came back to his house around 7AM and waited for him to come out walking his dog. When he saw them they were utterly shocked by the look of hatred on his face. They asked him if they could come in for another day and he turned them away. Russ asked him how he could do this to his own sister who is obviously in very bad shape. He said that they were going to end up in the hospital again and that he didn't want them at his house. They were shocked at his inhumanity and drove away.

They traveled north, hoping to find a motel in a more distant town where, perhaps, the hurricane hadn't hit so hard. For the next three days and nights, they ate fast food and searched for gas and a motel room. They stopped at 25-30 motels until a vacancy was found, usually very late at night.

Each day heading more north and each night was filled with shock and horror. Then they ran out of money.

One late afternoon after 3-4 days and nights on the road they were sitting in the car at the back of a McDonald's with only $80 left in their checking account, not enough to pay for another night at a motel. Jeanne was in tremendous pain from all the hours in the car with crippling Scoliosis when Jeanne thought to call one of her friends from high school, Anne.

Anne immediately called another one of their friends from high school. Between them they sent some survival funds via direct deposit. She also offered a place to stay, her daughter’s apartment in Sarasota, exactly where they were. Anne sent the address and the minute they parked in front their car's air conditioner conked out. Without this help they would have been dead.

They stayed there for almost a month. Their nervous systems, psyches and physical bodies were so badly damaged by this odyssey that they could barely talk, think or walk. Their levels of anxiety were so high they couldn't comprehend what was happening. Russ couldn't get out of the apartment for days and when he forced himself out for food he was terrified. They couldn't function at all, they were shattered.

Jeanne spoke to Anne on the phone every day. She was their rock. Anne reached out to other high school friends for more help and sent additional money as it came in.  Even though the enormous pressure of food and shelter was no longer an immediate issue, they couldn't deal with anything, their minds were gone.

After about a month of tiny improvements each day, Jeanne and Russ needed to go home to Naples. Anne provided them with a car service back home and when arrived they found their house had been badly damaged and was barely habitable. They estimate that the damage is somewhere in the range of $30,000 which they don’t have. FEMA came to inspect the house and sent a check for $500. $500??

They need psychological help and Jeanne needs physical rehabilitation to be able to get into her wheelchair again. They are living in a dangerous house which they don't have the money to fix up to sell. 

It's possible they won't survive. Please help with suggestions for options and anything you might be able to spare.

Thank you


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Angela DiGennaro Kats 
Little Falls, NJ
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