Houston-area alumni serve others during Hurricane Harvey

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In the midst of a record-setting hurricane season and the destruction that has ensued, many stories of people helping those in need have emerged.

Hurricane Harvey has been one of the most intense storms so far this year as it made landfall near Rockport, Texas as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 130 mph. As a tropical storm, Harvey dropped as much as 61 inches of rainfall in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana. It triggered flash flooding in parts of Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee from Aug. 31-Sept. 1. An estimated 77 people died as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane alumni_1Two Lipscomb alums and former Bison softball players are among those who served others while in the midst of Hurricane Harvey as it battered the Houston in late August.

Bridgette Begle (’14) and Gracey Aguirre (’15), both Houston, Texas, natives, returned to their hometown after graduating from Lipscomb. As the storm waters surged, both instinctively found ways to serve their neighbors in need.

Begle, who lives in the Pearland/Friendswood area of Houston, said that Saturday night after the storm hit, 28 inches of rain fell followed by another 15 or more inches that fell over the next two days.

“The amount of water on our street was unprecedented. We are probably the highest point of our neighborhood, so it goes without saying that a lot of others were not as lucky,” recalled Begle, who played for the Lady Bisons from 2010-2014.

Her cousins were among those not as fortunate. Begle and her family packed up their truck and navigated their way to her cousins’ home. They got to the entrance of their neighborhood and walked the rest of the way. They gathered a few necessities, including a kayak, and took her relatives back to Begle’s house until the water subsided.

Bridgette_headshot?Begle soon needed a boat to help deliver needed items to those stuck in the flood and to rescue them from their flooded neighborhoods and homes. She also served residents at a shelter near her home at Dobie High School. She delivered coffee and other necessities to the shelter residents.

“I'm doing nothing compared to my fellow Houstonians, Texans and really just Americans in general,” said Begle, a communication: journalism and new media major while at Lipscomb. “There are so many teams forming and funding coming in has been increasing daily. The recovery process from here will be long, but God is absolutely moving in Houston. People helping people.”

A third-year law student at the University of Houston Law Center, Begle works part time with a state district court judge in Harris County, Texas.

Begle’s former teammate Aguirre, a biology major at Lipscomb, is a patient care assistant in the labor and delivery unit at Texas Children’s Hospital-Pavilion for Women. For nearly seven consecutive days, Aguirre was part of the hospital’s labor and delivery “ride out team,” making sure babies made it safely into the world during the storm.

“Funny thing about going into labor is that these babies don’t care if there is a hurricane, or flooding waters. When a baby wants out, it wants out,” said Aguirre. “A couple was featured in People magazine that just showed one of the most creative ways mommas were arriving into the hospital. This was an incredible story, my co-worker Lauren Engle was her nurse. Neighbors formed a human chain to help pregnant women in labor wade through floodwaters.”

“This couple arrived in a garbage truck, clothes drenched, and were quickly transported to one of our labor rooms. Unfortunately, I cannot release details about the delivery due to HIPAA, but I can say it was an emotional delivery.”

Aguirre said she loves her work in labor and delivery.

Hurricane alumni_2“One of the things that I love about my job is that I get to witness women turn into mothers, and men turn into fathers. It is truly a blessing to be a part of one of the most important moments in these people’s life,” she said. “I get to be a part of a miracle multiple times a night. I get to be a part of most deliveries, I am partnered with another PCA, and we rotate deliveries. I just happened to be a part of the one that was featured in People magazine.”

Aguirre assists with many things in the labor and delivery unit, but in deliveries, she assists the nurses and doctors.

After working nearly seven straight days in the storm Aguirre said she was happy to finally see the sun.

“I have never been so happy to see the sun in my life. It was as if God were sending us a sign of hope,” she said. “We were mentally and physically drained, but the sun and blue skies lifted up our spirits. My colleagues and I immediately started to dance to ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ by Justin Timberlake. If you knew me while I was on the softball team at Lipscomb, you could always count on me and Brianne Welch dancing in the outfield.”

Aguirre said that being in the midst of the storm was surreal.

“We were trapped in our own little world, unable to truly grasp the severity of the hurricane. I got an email from work that Wednesday, basically telling me to come to work on Thursday prepared to stay multiple days. Multiple days turned into six-and-a-half days,” recalled Aguirre. “I filled my truck up with a full tank, and packed my truck with a suitcase, case of water, and loaded up with ramen noodles. I felt like I was moving back to college again. I honestly was only expecting to stay 2-3 days. Boy was I wrong.”

gracie_headshot“The storm didn’t hit us until Friday, Aug. 25, and it started to flood quickly on Saturday, Aug. 26,” Aguirre continued. “Our hospital made the call, and I became a part of the ‘ride out’ team. This means that the people on staff in the hospital have to stay in the hospital until relief is able to come in. My hospital provided us with cots, and air mattresses to sleep on. We were assigned roommates, and sleeping quarters. Suddenly if felt like I was in some kind of medical camp. The news was on, on every TV in the hospital. It was so hard to watch. Everyone anxiously waited to view shots of their neighborhood, or subdivision. The rain kept coming and the waters kept rising. It was crazy.”

The hospital had multiple deliveries as the storm raged around them. Texas Children’s Hospital-Pavilion housed patients who were expecting to deliver within the next few days in a hotel across the street, so they could be near a hospital.

“We had patients drive the wrong way on highways to get here, we had people come in on fire trucks, and transports from other hospitals that were having flooding. We had intensive care patients from other hospitals evacuate into ours that could not afford a power outage, which added more to the hospital workload,” said Aguirre, who played for the Lady Bison softball team from 2011-2015. “It was nice to know that I was helping people in the hospital, but I also wanted to be out there helping families in the flood. I had some friends and family who needed help, and it was hard to be stuck in the hospital not able to do anything ‘out there.’ One of the biggest lessons I learned from playing softball at Lipscomb was that we can’t control what is out of our control, but we can control the controllables.  I focused on my job, and what I needed to do at that time.”

Though she helped bring new life into the world during this deadly storm, Aguirre said she didn’t do anything special.

“People were texting me throughout this whole process, calling me a hero. But I am no hero. I am just doing my job,” admits Aguirre. “The real heroes are the citizens of Houston, who were risking their lives during the flood to rescue families. Those people are the heroes.”

Hurricane alumni_3“I honestly would not have made it through this week without my close friends Marlene Sanchez and Kevin Jackson. They are surgical technicians for labor and delivery. They kept me sane through this all. We gave each other food; we gave each other comfort, energy, and lifted each other up throughout this natural disaster,” she added. “Most of my co-workers were separated from their kids for days, and we were all separated from our families. Can you imagine being trapped in the hospital, knowing your family was out in the flooding waters? It was very hard, but the patients needed us probably much more than our families at the time.”

Bison softball head coach Kristin Ryman said while she is proud of her former players, she is not surprised of their heart for serving others during Hurricane Harvey.

"This is such an awful situation for the city of Houston and others. One of the best things to come from this tragedy though is seeing people genuinely helping each other,” said Ryman. “And I'm not surprised to see Gracey and Bridgette in the middle of that. They both have huge hearts and take initiative. They are doers.”

“I think it's easy to imagine what you would do in a tragedy like this, but you never really know until it happens,” continued Ryman. “I have no doubts that the mental training and physical demands of being a college student-athlete benefited them during this time. But it is their own nature to want to help others. I am so proud of them for not only being on the front lines helping others, but being so selfless with their time as well.”

Recovery continues in the Gulf Coast region near Houston. Lipscomb University will be sending clean up crews comprised of students, faculty and staff to the Houston area Oct. 12-16. Other cleanup and recovery trips are planned during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. and spring breaks.

For more information about participating in a hurricane relief trip, click here.