Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina

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September 4th 2005
Published: August 29th 2019
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09-03-2005 (about 11 am): After spending the morning mountain biking with friends, I received a call from one of my anesthesia attendings: We are putting together a medical response team to offer aid following the disaster from Hurricane Katrina, he said. Would I like to be apart of the team? I had seen the images on TV, the destruction, the hopelessness, the lack of food, shelter, medical care. The locations in south Louisiana, and Mississippi were familiar; it was where I grew up. Of course I wanted to be a part of the team, but I couldn't just abandon residency for two weeks. It's all taken care of, I am told. I thought I was recruited because of my familiarity with the location. It was, actually, because I had trained in internal medicine before anesthesia. That training would be useful, the team believed.


On the plane; off to Baton Rouge. Arrived at the University of Utah at 0300. Hep A and Tetanus immunizations there along with some information: We are there for up to two weeks. Possibly staffing an inpatient medical unit as a group, possibly splitting up and used as needed. Amazingly, as the federal government has taken about 6 days to get substantial aid to south Louisiana/ Mississippi, we are on a plane to offer aid and help 19 hours after the plan was conceived.


Here at "Home Base". Actually, it is Jimmy Swagart's ministry where all of Baton Rouge's coordination is coming through. We just got credentialed: present my medical license & driver's license & now I can practice medicine in Louisiana. The physician credentialing us tells that some MDs were credentialed with their Americian Medical Association number. Our journey from the Baton Rouge airport to the Command Center took us past convoys of ambulances headed away from New Orleans. There are dozens of ambulances in waiting here.

Our destination: Kmart General Hospital, a 1000 bed hospital rumored to have electricity (intermittently) and water. As per the name, it is an abandoned Kmart. We will be there 7pm to 7 am. Reportedly few patients there now. Many more to come....


At "Our Lady of the Blue Light". What it is: an old Kmart. 48 hours ago, truly a shell. Since then "wards" have been made with white plastic sheeting as walls to create a Triage Area, Acute Area (ER), Med Units 1,2,3, and Obstetrics and Pediatrics Area. There is a pharmacy, a "Goodwill" with clothes and a canteen area with snacks, drinks and Community Coffee. Kmart is in a bad neighborhood, so security is muy tight with police and military units wielding assault rifles. The patients have been mostly from New Orleans. Some from the Convention Center where they stayed for 4 days without food or water. The medical issues have been mostly from neglect secondary to the hurricane (not being able to get their meds for diabetes, hypertension, etc). Getting prescriptions filled is easy once they are here. They are being filled for 1 month for free by CVS if "hurricane victim" is written on the prescription. Placement is a huge issue. The shelters are full and finding placement once they've been treated is tough. Many are staying with us until shelter is found.

We're off at 7 am, back at 7pm. Here for 2 weeks, or until we're no longer needed. Who knows when that will be. The patient's arrival is feast, then famine: busy for awhile as busloads come in. Now that they are settled in, all is fairly quiet.

I was just asked if I wanted to join a team to go to Bogalusa. Apparently there is need for triage there. The MD leading it seems like a bit of a spaz and I don't know if I trust his judgement.


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