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Red Cross helps hospitalized Alberta fire evacuees

When Robert Waniandy fled the Alberta wildfires with just a garbage bag full of clothes, the 65-year-old had no idea when or where he would see his wife again.

The smoke and chaos in Fort McMurray had prompted his wife, Annie Auger, 71, to leave Fort McMurray a few days earlier. When Waniandy, a retired welder, finally reached the evacuation centre at Edmonton’s Expo Centre, he felt so sick that he could only lie listlessly on his cot. Concerned volunteers transferred him to the Royal Alexandra hospital, where he discovered his wife had also been admitted with health issues.

“At least she was close by again,” said Waniandy. “But I didn’t know where we would go after we left the hospital. So, it’s really good Red Cross showed up to help us out.”

Since wildfires prompted the largest evacuation in Alberta history, more than 1,600 Red Cross staff and volunteers have been helping people forced to flee their homes in the Fort McMurray region. Included in this massive effort are Red Cross outreach teams who are visiting hospitals and other sites, assisting the most vulnerable evacuees with health and other unique challenges.

Before Waniandy and Auger were discharged from hospital, Red Cross outreach workers, Wayne Dailey and Elaine Caswell, met the couple, arranged and paid for their hotel accommodation, and gave them vouchers for groceries, transportation and other immediate needs.  Earlier, the pair also received $600 each by electronic bank transfer from Red Cross.

Outreach_hospital_Edm3resize-(1).jpgWaniandy said his wife was also really grateful to get her hearing aids replaced, free of charge, by the Starky Hearing Foundation. Amanda McLeod, a hearing aid practitioner with Living Sounds in Edmonton, donated her time and expertise to fit Auger with the new devices.

“Hopefully, this eases the burden a bit for her,” said McLeod. “It’s always wonderful fitting people with new hearing aids because they are better able to communicate again, and enjoy being more involved with the world. I’m really grateful to my bosses and the foundation for making this possible.”

The foundation is replacing hearing aids that were lost, damaged or left behind because of the wildfires.

Waniandy is also relieved to have the support of his nephew, Clint, who lives in Edmonton and came rushing to his uncle’s side when he heard that he was hospitalized in town. Clint has already completed a long list of errands to help his uncle and aunt. He isn’t too busy now, he said, because fires in Fort McMurray mean his jackhammer work, cleaning out cokers at the oil sand plants, probably won’t be as available.

“But it’s okay, I’m thinking that I’ll get work helping to clean up the city when they need it. Everyone’s helping as much as they can now, aren’t they?”
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