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.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hearing with open eyes

I envy the first group that arrived in Waveland. I don't know if I would have wanted to endure the reptile and disease infested mess they had to wrestle with, but nevertheless I envy them.

Today the new second shower facility was installed and made operational. The checkpoint actually now has a gate. We are getting more and more of the supplies and equipment that we need to effectively do our jobs. A small community of federal agencies, charitable and church organizations, and medical support have joined the once desolate town of what has been called 'camp K-mart'.

It is all amazing. The first night we arrived we found a system of two pans in place to provide proper washing facilities. Equipment had just arrived, but were not yet in use. MRE's were the next best things to grandma's apple pie. The reminders of Katrina's power were still our neighbors. How things have change in the short span of a few days.

Progress is a wonderful thing. It brings with it warm showers, better and faster gadgets, and more things to occupy free time. Progress makes life more comfortable. In a few weeks, with the shops all boarded up, the camp even more established, and the stories of horror passing into distant memory, this place, once a testament of how frail we truly are, will seem all too 'normal'.

Someone told me today that a person who wanted to wash their clothes was annoyed that the one washing machine, something found on the streets, was not working. Another person was unhappy that showers were regulated to being open only between certain hours. And little annoyances have started to creep in.

It is a blessing that the people here are focused on bringing relief to those who are in need. This morning, everyone heard that extra hands were needed to clean camp when they saw others picking up brooms and collecting garbage. Doctors were changing garbage bags. Nurses took up brooms and swept. Others carried in supplies, or volunteered to get things done.

I hope that as things reach normalcy, the goal of our mission here does not become drowned out by the chatter of civilized conveniences. I hope that the fact that the storefronts have been boarded up will not mask the truth of what has happened here. I hope that with the creature comforts of the modernized world people will not loose track of what it is that we are doing here.

I envy the first group that arrived. They had the luxury of having experienced the full horror of this event in its full glory. They will remember. They will be changed. They will take with them, in its raw from, the lessons of this event. I wish that I could have been with them, despite the fact that I am not sure that I could have been as strong as they were.


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