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Local emergency responders reflect on Harvey rescue missions

Nearly a month after Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast, Rio Grande Valley emergency responders share their experiences of helping victims affected by the storm.

Nearly a month after Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast, Rio Grande Valley emergency responders share their experiences of helping victims affected by the storm.

"It was different. I've been in EMS for a long time, and we get to see people cry, go through pain, and sometimes happiness when we see kids being born. The face of somebody who has lost everything is something else. It's just blank," said Clinical Liaison Ben Martinez.

Twenty Valley agencies made up the Region 11 Emergency Medical Task Force. EMTF 11, along with other EMTF's, gave its services to five affected cities over the span of seven days.

"Not only seeing all the water and damage--seeing the bodies of people floating in the water, of course it's difficult to see. Folks that you can't help anymore," said STEC Registered Nurse Paramedic Rene Perez.

Region 11 EMTF was tasked with several first-responder missions, like search and rescue, in every city they helped. Daniel Ramirez, the task force's coordinator, said preparation for Harvey was different compared to storms in the past.

"Harvey was different for us, because normally you have five days to prepare for a storm, then have a storm for two days,” Ramirez said. “This time we had two days to prepare for the storm and we had five days with the storm."

Days for first responders started at 6 a.m. and ended the next day at 2 a.m. Outside of search and rescues, crews set up emergency rooms to treat those seeking medical attention. They treated thousands of people in just the seven days of service.

Perez remembered times that they weren't able to help people, and says that's what hurt the most.

"On my mission I was tasked to go help this one patient,” said Perez. “I was trying to make my way to the patient. I felt helpless because I couldn't help those who needed help. They just needed to get out of their homes.”

Members of EMTF 11 say the experience will help them better prepare for future storms.

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