As Laura Bush made Happy Happy with the children of Katrina in one of the most disgusting displays of crass opportunism at the White House Easter Egg Hunt here is the reality of far too many of the young survivors….
A 30 foot wave took out her home. She was saved from drowning by a neighbor who placed her in a floating cooler and got her to safety.
Each time the 3-year-old gets in the bathtub, she thinks she’s going to drown. Monica whimpers when her grandmother turns on the faucet, sobbing softly at first, then wailing as the tub begins to fill.
“She cries and cries. ‘Don’t be crying,’ I tell her. ‘I gotta wash your hair,'” says her exasperated grandmother, Ruth May Smith.
During the evacuation her mother caught pneumonia and died in her sleep.
When her father takes a nap, 8-year-old Gabrielle Riley circles the bedroom, on edge. Eventually, she quietly turns the doorknob. “I just go in his room and see if he’s OK. But sometimes he don’t answer me so I just scream loud, ‘Daddy are you OK?'” she explains.
For the evacuation his parents told him to pack one bag of clothes He didn’t take any of his toys.
He returned to find his toys caked in mud. That’s when he asked his parents for a suitcase, one with wheels and a handle. In it, he began storing every new toy he was given since the storm.
Now, he doesn’t let the suitcase out of his sight, lugging it behind him on errands, to the store, to restaurants and to sleep-overs. Inside are his treasures: Sponge Bob and Batman. A Game Boy. A growing collection of plastic, Hulk-like men.
It annoys his grandmother, Deirdre Domino. No more taking the suitcase to school, she says. “I tell him, ‘Michael, take out a few and take them with us,'” Domino says. “He says ‘Mawmaw, what if we have another hurricane?'”
It’s PTSD. According to one study as many as 100,000 of the children of Katrina are expected to develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder but…..
(continues….click Read More)
Most experts say the toll is likely far higher. Of the first 1,000 children screened by the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, 27 percent displayed symptoms of trauma, including nightmares, flashbacks, heightened anxiety and bedwetting, says Dr. Joy Osofsky, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at LSU’s Harris Center for Infant Mental Health.
How children respond and the severity of their reaction varies widely. But eight months after Katrina, patterns are beginning to surface. For teenagers, depression is setting in, as they realize it could be years before they’re back in their homes, if ever.
Elementary- and middle-school children are struggling with the loss of their toys. They battle nightmares and intrusive thoughts. Their anxiety comes out in physical symptoms, like recurring stomach aches.
For children under 6, their faith in their parents’ ability to protect them has been shattered. To make themselves feel secure, they regress, sticking close to their parents and returning to behavior they’d previously outgrown, such as thumbsucking and bedwetting.
Make no mistake: This is a crisis and it should be dealt with as an emergency,” says Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-based Children’s Defense Fund, which in a recently released report called for immediate emergency mental health services in the Gulf states.
Overwhelmed, child psychologists in New Orleans say case loads have doubled, both because of the heightened need and because so many doctors have not returned. “I used to be able to book a new child within two weeks. Now, I’m booking appointments two months out,” says child psychologist Carlos Reinoso, author of the book “Little Ducky Jr. and the Whirlwind Storm,” which tries to explain the hurricane to children.
What mental health professionals fear most is the impact down the road. The 1988 earthquake in Armenia that killed 25,000 people. Tracking more than 200 children over five years, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles’ Trauma Psychiatry Program found that those who were given professional help early on fared better and showed fewer symptoms at the end of the study. Those who got no help did not improve.
“This crisis is foreseeable, and much of its destructive impact is preventable,” Perry says. “Yet our society may not have the wisdom to see that the real crisis of Katrina is the hundreds of thousands of ravaged, displaced and traumatized children.”
Shame on Laura Bush for not using the high profile Easter Egg hunt to make America a bit wiser of this crisis.
UPDATE: You can go here to hear the Kids of Katrina tell their stories.