New Beginnings: A Storm Baby

(as told by his father, Jochen Kranz, UNO M.A., MBA) I remember the days after Katrina hit as if through a haze. The fact that my family and I made it through the storm so well continues to amaze me. My partner, Dawn, was nine months pregnant as Katrinaapproached. She had been put on bed rest, so evacuating via car was out of the question. We made the very difficult decision to ride out the storm, bought plenty of water, canned foods and fruit for a few days, boarded up the house and sandbagged all entry ways.

The day after the storm, Dawn started having contractions. I got her and our seven-year old Ty to a fire station about a mile and-a-half away from our house. Having to climb over fallen trees and under power lines
made the contractions worse. Thank God there was an ambulance at the fire station. I put Dawn and Ty in the ambulance which took them to a triage center in Slidell. Since they did not feel prepared to deliver a baby at the triage center, they transferred Dawn to a hospital in Hattiesburg, MS.

As these steps were being taken, I was at home gathering a few things so I might join my family in Slidell. Since all communication was disrupted, I had no idea of this change of plans. As I was getting ready to walk to Slidell, a bulldozer cut a path out, and I was able to get a car out of our neighborhood and drive to Slidell. There, nurses and doctors were caring for patients in the hospital parking lot. Nobody kept track of patients, and nobody knew of Dawn's whereabouts. Only one nurse who had overheard me asking for Dawn remembered a pregnant woman
with a little boy and thought they might be in Hattiesburg.

With I-59 being closed, and the old Highway 11 as well, I had to take several major detours to get to Hattiesburg. I had less than half a tank of gas for a trip of over 100 miles, with all the detours and road blockages. Running the car without air conditioning, driving at low speeds and idling it wherever I could to save gas, I got to Hattiesburg on literally my last drop of gas. Over standing ovations of the hospital staff who knew of Dawn’s desperate situation and our involuntary separation, I found Dawn and Ty. Three hours later, Evan Rivera Kranz was born at Wesley Medical Center. There was no power, running water or sewage. Evan weighed 8 pounds and measured 20.5 inches.

He was a healthy boy, and the most beautiful little thing I had ever seen. The day after Evan was born, the hospital got power through a generator, and we got to stay in an air-conditioned environment with running water for two days before they discharged us. Still, having to scavenge for food for Ty and fighting for gas were some of the most demeaning experiences of my life. After all, the hospital had only enough food to feed its patients and staff. With a half tank of gas, we made it to Meridian, MS, where gas stations had not started rationing gas yet. McDonald's never tasted so good.

We then made our way to Birmingham, AL, where we were stayed in the house of a friend. Even
hough we were a bit crowded into a tight space, we were all well. We remained in Birmingham for about three weeks until power and water had been restored to the Pearl River community. We returned home and began
cleaning up our property. Briefly interrupted by having to evacuate due to Hurricane Rita, we have since worked hard to restore our yard and lives to some type of normalcy. Evan’s Austrian grandparents and aunt just visited us to meet nthe new family member. He is my parents’ first grandchild, and he will be in for a great story when he is older.