EXCLUSIVE: Caregiver brings patient to safety after being trapped in Santa Cruz Mountains amid storm

Lauren Martinez Image
Friday, March 24, 2023
EXCLUSIVE: Caretaker brings patient to safety during Bay Area storm
A caretaker is sharing her story after being trapped in storm-stricken Santa Cruz Mountains with her dementia patient, with no power and service.

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Some residents in Boulder Creek were trapped after large trees blocked access to roads, including a caretaker and her dementia patient.

On Wednesday morning, Veronica Christie captured cellphone video of when she and her dementia patient were able to walk out of Boulder Creek safely.

Downed trees and power lines on Riverdale Boulevard made it nearly impossible to get through by vehicles. Utility and emergency crews allowed residents to walk in or out for a short window of time.

Christie said walking out was a great relief, but the 24 hours were quite a journey.

"I'm tired. I'm kind of coming down off of everything that happened. And doing that thing in your mind like, did that just really happened to me?" Christie said.

On Tuesday, Christie got to her patient's home. Because he has dementia, she tries to time it out when his wife leaves. Her timing was impeccable. Within half an hour of getting there, she heard trees start to fall and the power shut off.

"So I said okay, let's get in the car let's get out, I grab the dog because I'm worried we won't be able to get back in," Christie said.

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Both of her routes were blocked, one of them off Juanita Road and Highway 9.

"So we go into the house and I say, "we can't get out, let me text your wife and let her know we're basically trapped and that she might have a chance to get through Highway 9 going north,'" Christie said.

She wasn't able to get ahold of his wife, and that route was blocked. For hours, Christie had no service.

"I go up to the neighbor's house and I knock on the door and I said, 'I have my dementia patient, I really need to get some internet because I need to let his wife know we're okay.' She said, 'yeah of course,'" Christie said.

At 3 p.m., she heard there was an opportunity to drive out, but she needed to keep her patient in his home with his things.

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Every 20 minutes, Christie walked to the neighbors to try and get service. She was able to tell her mom to contact her patient's wife. Christie was told she was at the Marriot in Santa Cruz.

"Like everything is fine, don't worry and I'm in the rain crying like, oh my God somebody please pick up the phone you know, so I was able to have those breaks outside where I had my moments, like this is what's happening, get it together - it could be worse," Christie said.

Even though Christie's anxiety was high, her job was to put her patient at ease.

"Your wife will be home, we'll figure it out tomorrow cause he was of course asking for her. This isn't a usual routine and that's the thing about dementia too, routine is really crucial," Christie said.

Christie told herself everybody is safe and that's the most important thing.

The next morning, a neighbor knocked on the door and let her know he was going to look for a route out. During that time, he was told utility and emergency crews were going to let people walk out. He called her to let her know.

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"I needed to grab the pills for him, his wife, and the dog, and some change of clothes and take some things out of my car because I was leaving my car there," Christie said.

She was thankful crews let people have the option to walk in or out even if it was for a short period of time.

Christie also emphasized how grateful she is to all the neighbors that helped her.

"Just having that guy walk up, I mean if he hadn't been there, you know my patient doesn't have a cellphone, none of the power was on, that might've been the very first person to realize he was alone. So it just really goes to show it doesn't hurt to check in on somebody and I think we need that in the community right now," Christie said.

Christie said if her patient's wife wasn't able to be there or his kids, she was the best-case scenario.

"He calls me pumpkin and he says that he loves me, so it's pretty sweet. I think I was the next best thing to be able to be there," Christie said.

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