Local volunteers go to Louisiana help Hurricane Ida victims, recovery

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Less than six months into retirement 62-year-old former marine physician assistant Thomas Hansen is leaving his comfy home in Deerfield to head to the hurricane zone.

"When you retire from a life of service, you have got to continue giving back and the Red Cross is so well-organized," he said.

Hansen was serving Kuwait 16 years ago when his the rest of his Florida-based troop headed to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, including his own father. But he couldn't leave Kuwait to join them, so now he is eager to help, knowing he'll encounter bewilderment among storm victims.

"Everybody comes to have their own medical issues that they had before the storm: hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease," he said. "The bedrock of the American Red Cross is to offer that to these, Americans; knowing someone is taking care of them."

Other Red Cross volunteers also departed for Louisiana from the Chicago headquarters Monday. They'll go to Texas Monday night, and then be sent where they are needed.

They may encounter some 45 medical specialists also headed out Monday from Wheeling as part of a Mutual Aid Box Alarm System instituted between states after 9/11.

At Aerocare in Sugar Grove, the team commanding a Lear jet, which is capable of providing airborne ICU level care, awaits orders from FEMA. They have been notified they will be needed.

Aerocare has another Lear jet in Florida also headed to the hurricane zone. They are honored to pitch in.

"You have to keep your focus on the mission, on your job, you have to put your personal feelings aside and be there for the people that need the help," said Jim Goniwicha, director of communications.

When the order from FEMA come, Aerocare will have four hours to get its planes down to Louisiana.
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