The response after Hurricane Harvey–that made landfall Aug. 25 in Rockport, Texas, before blowing the country’s southeast over a few days–is just another sobering example how people in the massage profession help alleviate stress and pain in early responders.
Among the harrowing pictures of Hurricane Harvey news coverage were those of citizens and rescue personnel in boats–not traversing lakes or rives, but travel flooded city streets as they searched for and found survivors.
Massage therapist Kirsten Genchur felt firsthand the consequences of those search-and-rescue assignments in the muscles of first responders she massaged while set up at Katy High School.
Massage therapist Lauren Allen volunteered massage in a shelter after Hurricane Harvey. Photo courtesy of Ashley Sellers
All that walking through water, she added, led to calf and hip issues. She watched many first responders limping down the high school’s hallways.
She worked for three days on members of the U.S. Army, Marines, Department of Public Safety, and Texas State Guard. Many of these first responders got by on two or three hours of sleep per night, working 16- to 20-hours shifts every day, with those hours of sleep on the high school’s floors, Genchur said.
Genchur does not practice massage in Katy; she practices in Austin, Texas, 136 miles away. She has supplied massage to responders after fire and flooding previously, so when she heard how damaged Katy was, she phoned a customer who worked for the DPS and asked him whether she might be of assistance.
“He said, ‘absolutely, we’ll get you out here as soon as we can, because they are definitely hurting,’” Genchur recalled. She loaded her massage table to her vehicle and drove to Katy, where over the next five days the 100 individuals working under her client performed 500 water rescues, based on an email the client sent to her.
Hurricane Harvey has murdered, as of the writing, 60 individuals, according to numerous news reports; harm from it, Texas Governor Greg Abbot informed Reuters, could cost around $180 billion.
Have Chair, Will Travel
When massage therapist Ashley Sellers recognized she was spared the damage and flood affecting so many of her fellow Texans, she, like Genchur, understood what she had to perform: Find a way to assist.
“I felt if you live here and you didn’t suffer, you should be helping,” Sellers, who owns Skin Deep Massage at Seabrook and Clear Lake, Texas, told MASSAGE Magazine.
So, she stuffed her massage seat as well as her service dog Trapper and made her way to the League City Police Department. League City has a population of 95,000 and is situated in Galveston County, roughly 30 miles south of Houston.
“The National Guard was stationed for the hurricane and sleeping in the jails,” Sellers said.
“All staff was required to work, no matter what their personal situation was, even if their house flooded. As a result, a lot of officers had their families and pets all living inside the police station.”
In all, roughly 200 people were living in the police station, she said.
Massage therapist Ashley Sellers (middle( blue shirt) with members of the National Guard, the U.S. Air Force, and the Dickinson Police Department, in the Dickinson, Texas, police station, where massage therapists have been focusing on service personnel. Photo courtesy of Ashley Sellers
Sellers gained consent from Police Chief Michael Kramm to set her up massage chair in the reception, she then started posting to Facebook to rally colleagues to help provide needed touch.
She additionally contacted Police Chief Daniel Presley, in town of Webster, less than three miles off, “and he was very excited about massage therapists coming to his station,” Sellers said.
She stated Chief Presley told her staff they were needed to remain in the police station 24⁄7, and some personnel was having some psychological difficulty. Soon, massage therapists Jurwana Schlesinger, Julie Jackson and Brittaney Wells had put up a massage area in the police station.
Massage treatment has been shown to support relaxation and stress relief, and massage therapists also have volunteered to work on first responders and other support employees since at least 1989.
That year, massage therapist James “Jim” Charlesworth (1957–2010), was an admissions counselor for the National Holistic Institute in Emeryville, California, when the Loma Prieta Earthquake hit. He mobilized volunteers to provide around 8,000 massages to service employees, such as first responders.
Since then, massage therapists, schools and businesses over the past years have reacted in the aftermaths of such calamities as floods, earthquakes, fires, storms, shootings, terrorist attacks and tornadoes.
Source: Massage Magazine