As part of the response to Hurricane Katrina, a team of UNC Hospitals' physicians and staff left Friday, Sept. 2 to travel to the Gulf Coast as part of the MidCarolina Trauma RAC's State Medical Assistance Team II. The team from UNC Hospitals is comprised of: Christine Clark, RN; Randy Kearns; Preston "Chip" Rich, MD; Michele Rudisill, RN; Ed Wilson, RN; Ben Zarzaur, MD; and Janet Young, MD. A second team from UNC Hospitals left Sept. 9 to relieve the first group of volunteers. The second team to help staff the K-Mart Klinic in Waveland, Miss., is comprised of: Alberto Bonifacio, RN; Joe Manese, Radiology Tech; Peter Milano, 5th year surgical resident; Andrew Millager, Pharmacist; Jim Rawlings, Pastoral Care; Tina Schade-Willis, MD; Renae Stafford, Trauma Attending Surgeon; Jim Starlin, Air Care Communications; and Wes Wallace, MD., attending, emergency medicine.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Going Home

So far, we are scheduled to leave on the first flight this morning. It's now Friday and we are into the 8th day. We were supposed to leave Thursday morning. No regrets about being here an extra day because the need is so great. The problem is that as much as we all agree that we wouldn't change this experience for anything in the world, we are just as tired and in need of some rest. 7 days of straight shifts especially working nights and finding a place to sleep during 100+ degree days is difficult and just as difficult for the day shift who must work in it too.

I went up in a helicopter this week and the devastation is remarkable. Lives are splintered into millions of pieces and this is not only evident from the ground and our hospital but in the air as well. I was teary just watching it. The water has become murky and the vegetation is turning brown everyway. Green is not a common color. A few birds once in a while and eerily enough while riding with some well-connected persons in the county, we made a note that we did not see small game, pets, etc.

Hurricane Rita is bearing down with winds that have scolded us all day causing us to pull all non-secured items into trailers, pull up canopies, --- essentially close down camp except for the essential things. An evac plan has been posted with parameters and all bags have been packed earlier--just in case the winds or weather exceed wind capability. I do hope that we can make a safe flight tomorrow. Breaking down camp is estimated at 6-1/2 hours. FEMA pulled out yesterday. The food kitchen and showers next door do not plan to shut down and have taken precautions as have we. Sandbags have been moved to essential locations.

I wonder where our people living here will move to or to what they will hold on to. The winds are strong enough to make missiles out of much of this debris even without anything else happening. Persons living in tents or without any shelter have nothing and the ones with some type of shelter may not have places that can handle much more if one thinks about it.

As much as I look forward to leaving and going home and seeing my family, I cannot truly leave this place. The spirit is catching. These are the most wonderful people you can meet. I have learned and shared so much with so many. I plan to continue this kind of outreach and with find a way to continue it. I do invite all of you to begin this kind of outreach. You'll never come home the same person.


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