Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Saving Those Who Save?

A friend got this at work. It's from a letter from one of her colleagues at another hospital: Charity, in New Orleans, badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina:

Before we lost communication with
the outside world FEMA instructed us to prepare for evacuation later on
that day (Tues) and much to our surprise the Governor's office was
news agencies that we had already been evacuated. Needless to say, no
outside help came until Friday.

It began to become clear that if we were going to get out, we would have
to get ourselves out. Our HAZMAT Team had acquired 4 small diesel
generators for field use but did not have diesel fuel on site to power
them. Our ICU RT used his "Mississippi Credit Card" (a hammer and a
screwdriver) and some oxygen tubing to siphon diesel from on ambulance
flooded on the ER ramp. We were able to power up the ICU to run about 6
vents. For the others we used gas driven portable vents or continued to
hand bag. The roof of Charity Hospital was the only cool place to get a
few hours of restorative sleep each night so we broke away form our
12-on12-off usual staffing plan to allow each shift to enjoy a few hours with
the rats seeking higher ground.

When Tues rolled into Wed without any FEMA presence a morale crisis
erupted. Although many staff were incapacitated with fear, grief, and
despair, others dug deep and rose to the challenge. We could not
communicate with police, National Guard, or FEMA but our ICU residents
were able to text message and get live connection on air transmissions
CNN. [We then] got a
call from private air ambulance services wanting to send in his own
helicopters to start the evacuation. ...The commercial guys were able to
communicate with military helicopters and by 11PM Wednesday the
thunder of a Black Hawk was heard overhead....

... Amazingly there were thousands of people
waiting, ready to help but no one had known of our plight. We dumped our patients
with brief medical records taped to their forearms into waiting
ambulances for dispersion all over the region.

We continued the air evacuation all day Thursday, Thursday night, and
Friday AM. Nurses cat-napped on the concrete roof by putting their heads
on the legs of colleagues who bagged and comforted those waiting for the
next helicopter. Not knowing the structural integrity of the roof top,
the Black Hawk pilots stayed powered up while we loaded our patients,
docs, & O2 cylinders. After 48 hours of screaming commands over the
deafening sound of the Black Hawks our entire ICU staff was both deaf &
mute. By Friday afternoon we had completed our mission and walked the
three blocks back to Charity in chest deep sewage just in time to
discoverthat FEMA had arrived to begin evacuating our hospital.

If you ever hear anyone say "send in the feds"...

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