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.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Back Beyond the Railroad Tracks

Beyond the Railroad Tracks.

Today, four physicians and one of our nurse leaders visited Gulfport Memorial Hospital to say thank you. Dr. Ward and the other Emergency Physicians have been very helpful in accepting in transfer any patients we asked help for. While they suffered some damage they never closed. Some days they saw 500 patients a day, over twice their normal volume.

As a token of our gratitude, we brought them a box of “Meals Ready to Eat” or in military jargon MREs. We did have an ample supply, as they were not a local favorite. The Gulfport ER staff in turn seemed to appreciate the gesture, but probably knew all to well themselves the MRE's reputation for inducing constipation. The taste is really OK. Margaret, the hospital ER charge nurse said they were all very thankful for the NC field hospital’s presence. So it turned into mutual admiration meeting.

While touring their ED I talked at length to one of the other staff members who told me about the “barnacles”. It is a term of affection, applied to those citizens of Mississippi who are very permanent residents. They will be rebuilding. Many did not leave during hurricanes in the past, nor did they leave for Katrina. The common wisdom was that it was safe to ride out the storm if you evacuated back beyond the railroad tracks. Those that did that in Camile were fine. The tracks run parallel to the coastline, which in Waveland is about ¼ miles back from the beach. In comparison, SMAT – EMED 1 is located twice that distance from the water and still killed a half dozen. A picture of the same railroad tracks after the storm shows the fallacy of that approach.

Repetitively we heard from our patients about how fast the water approached. Before they knew it, they were climbing for the roof. Sadly, the same wall of water that threatened their lives 2 weeks ago may also be their financial ruin. Most homeowners have fire and wind damage. Flood damage is a separate policy, not uniformly purchased. Water damage from a leaking roof torn up by high winds is covered. Damage from an 18 foot wall of water created by wind is not. I suspect the “barnacles” that survived Katrina will stay this time as well, if they can afford to.

sam spicer

(Dr. Spicer is an emergency physician from Wilmington, NC. We are honored to have him as a guest blogger on this site. His contributions to the second deployment to Waveland were immense. WW)