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‘It very quickly becomes very real’ 

‘It very quickly becomes very real’  Gammie HomeCare sees devastation, organizes response 

KAHULUI, Hawaii – Within 24 hours of Maui’s devastating wildfires, Gammie HomeCare was at evacuation shelters to donate home medical equipment to residents who have lost everything. 

The wildfires, which began Aug. 8, scorched more than 3,000 acres, and left thousands homeless and, at press time, more than 100 dead, with more than 850 people still unaccounted for. 

“You shift very quickly from being an HME provider to just, you’re a human being and concerned for their well-being,” said Dale Shimabuku, president of Gammie HomeCare, which has locations on Maui, Kauai and Oahu. “At the shelter, there were kids with broken limbs and burn victims. One guy described it (this way): He could feel skin bubbling and he had burns down both legs. It very quickly becomes very real.” 

While Gammie HomeCare’s employees and immediate family members are all safe and accounted for, the communities it serves are small enough that everyone has connections with Lahaina that run deep, says Shimabuku.  

“There is so much history that, even if you didn’t live there, it was such a mecca that everyone has memories of Lahaina,” she said.  

And so, in the immediate aftermath of the fires, Gammie Homecare checked in with clients, says Shimabuku. 

“We reached out to everyone we could identify in that zip code – it was all hands-on deck,” she said. “We’ve been able to service a lot of clients that did make it out OK but lost everything.” 

Because the disaster was so widespread, health plans jumped in “very quickly” with waivers, says Shimabuku.  

“Everyone’s goal is to make sure people get what they need and get it replaced and we’ll deal with the red tape as needed,” she said. “If the address is in the affected area, there are no questions asked.” 

The relief response has also been widespread, including “famous people chartering in cargo planes” to replenish items such as canned goods, baby formula and diapers that quickly became in short supply, says Shimabuku.  

“A lot of locals were buying everything out and in the middle of the Pacific, we can’t get products quickly,” she said.  

Gammie HomeCare employees have been volunteering at shelters and participating in food and supply drives, but the company wanted to do more. It has also created a fundraising page to raise $10,000 in matching donations for the Maui Food Bank. 

“So many people ask, ‘How can I help,’ and so many supplies have been sent it’s overwhelming, and they are asking people not to send more because people don’t have homes,” she said. “Food security is going to be an issue for weeks and months. People want to help. We are so grateful.” 


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