UNC Hospitals' Hurricane Katrina Response Blog


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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Home Briefly . . .

Good evening,

Early this morning I arrived home (2am) from the Bay of St. Louis (Waveland) MS after spending some 10 days with our NC SMAT Field Hospital. I will be here for the next several days, return there for a week and have a few days off before spending several quality days at MUSC.

I thought I would share a few tidbits of information from my perspective. Once we received our assignment, we arrived in Waveland MS Sunday the 2nd. We saw our first patient on the 3rd and as of my last briefing yesterday morning; we had seen some 1400 patients.

The local hospital is closed, after being flooded (3' of water) throughout the first floor which comprises more than 75% of the patient bed location. Right now it appears it will remain closed for the next eight weeks. During my time there, I met meet with the local hospital CEO each day to cover progress and work to transition our operation back into his hospital ASAP. A part of our plan to help him recover their hospital includes honoring their traditional referral patterns and allowing their staff/Medical Staff to see patients once they can address some of their personal needs.

The most severe cases include numerous MI's and one head injury from a four wheeler accident involving a 12 year old. Both Dr's Rich and Zarzaur, along with the staff on duty at that time, worked well together. The patient was flown by the USCG to the level 1 trauma center at Jackson, MS. Today, his prognosis for a full recovery is excellent.

The devastation is catastrophic.

While there are some areas that continue to emit putrid odors from all sorts of sources, I suggest that you don't believe some of the wire reports, at least from our perspective. The primary problems are lack of good sanitary practices due to a lack of running water for showers, washing eating utensils and general hygiene. While at some point the insects will return, they are not a problem now. During my 10 days there, I saw a mosquito on Saturday and a fly on Sunday. Any idea what the lifespan is of a small flying insect in a sustained wind of 150+ mph for several hours? I slept under the stars several nights without insect repellant in southern Mississippi, now what are the chances of that a year from now!

There were lots of extraordinary efforts throughout the week to get the hospital up and running. Those first few days were filled with getting the lights on, finding water, diesel and food. To know that an accomplishment today includes adding a second shower facility is great news and should be wonderful for morale. (Maslow would be pleased!) My other trip away from the hospital each day was a 20 mile midnight ride to the NASA station up the road, so I know I am.

I will rotate into the hospital every other week until the mission is completed either returning for another stint as the Incident Commander or as a Liaison to the local hospital. Regardless, I should have more time and will provide another look from downtown Camp K-Mart, “the saving place”.

Randy Kearns

From our Memorial Service on Sunday.

Let us pray,

Four years ago today, four teams from the terrorist group known as Al Qaeda used passenger planes to attack America. Shortly before 9am, the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center with a second striking the South Tower minutes later. Within the hour, a third plane had struck the pentagon and a four attack was averted only after hijackers were overpowered by the heroic actions of several passengers.

By noon, thousands of Americans including more than 250 firefighters, police officers and medics were dead as the towers fell.

Today, we stand at ground zero for Hurricane Katrina, a storm that may very well have claimed the lives of more than 10,000 Americans by the time the final death toll is known and one of the greatest natural disasters in the history of our country. As we look into the faces of these families here at the Bay of St Louis and southern Mississippi, and think back to the events of 9-11, we can only imagine just a portion of the horror these people have seen and felt.

We stand here at the flag of our country, our homeland and the symbol of our resolve to overcome those forces that have harmed the citizens of our great nation. Regardless of the cause, whether by the brutal actions of terrorist or natural disaster, this country will do what must be done. We pray for the safety of our troops around the world, the victims of this tragic and catastrophic event, and pray for the safety of everyone who has selflessly gave of their time and talents to make a difference in the lives of our neighbors here in Mississippi. All these things we ask in your name,


Footnote: The flag was donated by someone who came to the hospital shortly after we were open. Several enterprising members rigged a rope over one of the light standards and a flagpole was created.

Also, after looking more closely at this photo, do you know what is special about this flag?

Randy Kearns