On August 27, 14-year-old Tyler Frank woke up to find water from Hurricane Harvey had filled her home. Her mother and three brothers — ages 8, 16, and 18 — soon found the water nearly rising overhead.
The family scrambled to the roof where they were stranded — outside, exposed to the rain — for a total of two days. Tyler was scared. But for her, there was more to be afraid of than the hurricane alone. The teenager suffers from sickle cell anemia, causing her body to go into “sickle cell crises.”
During one of these outbreaks, her red blood cells clog up her vessels and stifle the flow of oxygen to certain parts of the body. The result is excruciatingly painful. Tyler suffered one such crisis just as Harvey hit.
The sick teen was desperate to get out. She tried calling 911, begging for help on Facebook, and posting on Instagram. Nothing worked. With a fever reaching 103 degrees, Tyler was growing more anxious. Her mother later told reporters that Tyler’s face and mouth were turning blue from lack of oxygen. Then, Tyler had an idea.
She called the Coast Guard using Siri.
“I told him I was like scared for my life,” Tyler said. “We’re out here in the water. He was like, ‘Tyler, you’re one brave boy.’ No guy, he said guy, and I was like, ‘I’m a girl!’ And he was like, ‘Oh, you’re one brave girl.’ And I was like thank you.”
The next day, a Coast Guard helicopter arrived.
By then, Tyler had a 103-degree fever.
“He was asking, ‘Is anybody sick that needs to go?’ And I told him, ‘Yes. I have a child with sickle cell, and she’s very sick, and I need y’all to take her,’ and he was like, ‘We’re looking for the elderly, and we’ll come back and get the parents and the kids,’” Tameko said.
In a statement to CNN, the Coast Guard said, “Coast Guard first responders were faced with an overwhelming request for assistance due to Hurricane Harvey. On-scene rescue crews made determinations based upon emergent factors, i.e. immediate, life-threatening situations, and the conditions faced on the scene.”
As a result, Tyler and her family sat outside in the floodwaters for another day until another Coast Guard helicopter rescued them.
“I was crying, but it wasn’t sad tears,” Tyler said. “It was tears of joy because they came and got us and didn’t abandon us.”
Tyler’s calls saved her and her family from the storm.
She arrived at Texas Children’s Hospital where sickle-cell specialists treated her for four days.
Now, she, her mother, and four brothers are staying in a hotel by the highway.
“We don’t have (anywhere) to go,” Tameko said. “We don’t have (any) clothes on our back. We only have what’s been donated to us. Our car is gone. House gone. Everything’s gone. We have to start over.”