Registered nurses Jill Zoet and Deb Pietsch put their names on a list in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit, offering to volunteer if needed.

“I kept hearing that things were more stable down south so I put it out of my mind,” said Zoet, who works with Pietsch at ISJ Hospital in Mankato.

But a few days ago they got the call and today are on their way to assist medical crews, probably in Lafayette, La.

The two got training in Rochester on Friday and are heading out on a bus from there at noon today.

“The training was pretty heavy duty but very well organized,” Zoet said.

While the group of nurses was to relieve a crew in Lafayette, that group had to be evacuated Friday to a camp near Jackson, Miss., because of Hurricane Rita.

Zoet and Pietsch will now go there, that group will head back home, and the relief nurses will wait to see where they are headed.

“They said a lot of the power was out in Lafayette, they had a lot of rain,” Zoet said. “But I’m hoping that’s where we’ll go to pick up where the other group left off.”

The Cajun Dome in Lafayette, once home to 7,000 refugees, still has some 1,400 people using the dome as shelter. There are also smaller temporary camps, with 100 refugees or so, that sprung up in parks and other public buildings in the city.

“They’re doing a lot of vaccinations and primary care and child care at the dome,” Zoet said. “And they set up a shelter for people with special needs who need more care and supervision.”

For Pietsch, a short stint in the Delta is a return to something she was immersed in years ago.

“Before I was married I spent 31⁄2 years with a medical mission group in Africa,” Pietsch said. “We established clinics in different villages.”

Now, with four children and working at ISJ, she’s had little time for extended volunteer projects.

“This is something I can do because it’s just a short time, and you have the backing and planning of the Mayo system.”

Pietsch said she doesn’t see her trip as a significant contribution. “It’s just a couple weeks out of my life. I just hope when I get there if can make a difference for someone.”

Pietsch has been a nurse for 28 years, 15 of them at ISJ. Zoet returned to nursing full-time last year, after taking a break for 15 years to follow other pursuits.

The nurses are part of a Mayo Clinic disaster response program called Minnesota Lifeline. Mayo, the University of Minnesota and the College of St. Catherine committed to rotate volunteers into the Delta for 90 days.

Some 70 Mayo health care providers are in the area at any given time. Gold Cross Ambulance crews were also sent.

One of the primary problems hurricane refugees are finding weeks after the disaster is re-establishing a way to get necessary prescription drugs for chronic conditions.

This week, Minnesota Lifeline launched a mobile pharmacy effort to link evacuees to needed medications. Drugs were loaded onto mobile clinics and driven to the main clinic now staffed by the Minnesota contingent of volunteers. The medications are provided free of charge and they do not distribute narcotics.

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