HUMANS OF THE U: EMALEE EGELUND

“The first time I gave CPR I had to carry the patient through three feet of water to a boat. The thing TV doesn’t teach you about CPR is that people don’t revive magically from a few chest compressions and a good-old rescue breathe. It can take minutes of consistent repetitions and even then, that just keeps the blood flowing to the patient’s brain and organs to avoid complete organ failure. That was how my first 24 hours of volunteering for the American Red Cross in Texas after Hurricane Harvey went. Another civilian and I found a girl, not more than 5 years older than me, whom we administered CPR. I still don’t know if she survived or not.

The following week I was in charge of a mega-shelter medical clinic. It was located in the K. Bailey Convention Center and held around 4,500 cots with 3,000 of them filled. Some showed up the day the shelter opened. Those were the ones who left as soon as they got the evacuation warning. They had totes and bags of personal belonging and clothes. As the days progressed, more people would come in drenching wet. Those were the people who were rescued from their homes and places of business. I couldn’t blame these people, even when I treated them in the clinic for a range of issues brought on by the flood waters, such as UTIs to near diabetic shock due to their insulin being lost in the flood. I’ve never cherished working in a fully stocked hospital more than I did when working in an event center that barely had Band-Aids. Nevertheless, leaving everything you worked so hard for behind is scary. Sure, their lives are more important, but one shouldn’t make judgment unless they’ve been in the shoes of someone who was just trying to protect their only livelihood. Because even if they survived, knowing they have nothing return to with no means of getting it back isn’t truly living.

When I returned to school a few weeks later, people asked me how it was missing all my honors projects and regular classes. I mean I am a freshman after all. So why leave for weeks with the chance of failing my first semester? Honestly, it did cross my mind. But what mattered more was making sure good people were taken care of. I wanted them to know they had a support system from all over the country and world. Differences aside, human beings needed to support human beings. Next stop? Puerto Rico.”

— Emalee Egelund, freshman honors student, pre-med major

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at ThisWeek@utah.edu.