Former isle resident
surviving in chaos

Former Kauai resident Ellen Hyman spent days on her roof in Louisiana and later feared for her life from armed gangs while stranded in a hunting cabin in the woods, continually hungry and thirsty and without her medication.

But thanks to her attorneys, Hyman might be leaving this behind and returning to Kauai.

"This woman is amazing. She's got cancer, she lost everything and she's taking care of other people," said attorney Elif Yarnall-Cuceloglu. "She doesn't whine, she doesn't moan. She just does what needs to be done."

The 64-year-old woman was living in Mandeville, La., across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, until Hurricane Katrina destroyed everything she owned.

Hyman, who has cancer and diabetes, was even pressed into service as caretaker for other seniors after making her way to the hunting lodge near Bedico, La.

Hyman was located Wednesday when Daniel Hempey, her attorney in a lawsuit involving the sale of her Princeville home, received a frantic message from his elderly client. Hempey said Hyman had walked seven miles to get cell phone reception to make the call and, later that day, trekked back and got her lawyer on the phone.

"I really got limited information," Hempey said. "We just had a couple of broken-up cell phone calls."

It was a relief for Hempey, though, who had feared the worst.

"I was so happy to get that message," Hempey said. "I've been worried she was dead."

Hempey and his associate, Yarnall-Cuceloglu, spent most of Wednesday and yesterday tracking down information to help her and her elderly compatriots. The two attorneys expected Hyman eventually to make her way to Kauai, via Houston.

Yarnall-Cuceloglu went through nearly a dozen agencies before getting the information she needed, including getting Hyman a Federal Emergency Management Agency identification number, emergency telephone numbers and Red Cross shelter so the seniors with her could get medical attention. Yarnall-Cuceloglu also tried to get a search-and-rescue team to the cabin, but they could not find it.

"She hadn't had any contact with the outside world," Yarnall-Cuceloglu said. "I had to try and do something."

Hyman described a frightening, devastated area with marauding armed gangs; no food, water or electricity; and no help in sight, Yarnall-Cuceloglu said. The six of them, huddled in the cabin, took turns keeping watch for the gangs, Yarnall-Cuceloglu said.

During the day, they were "out scrounging around for food and water to keep these people alive," she added.

The next step, the lawyers said, was getting their client to Houston. She had a car but only a half-tank of gas, Yarnall-Cuceloglu said, and she was worried there was no gas to be bought anywhere and that the area bridges were destroyed. That was not true, she found out with calls to the emergency agencies.

The Kauai lawyers were also able to provide directions to shelters, access to Western Union and money if Hyman needs it.

Red Cross Katrina victim database

| | |
E-mail to City Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com