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 20, 2005

Katrina Goes Nuclear

Good morning from Kamp Katrina. We're settled into our routines here, committed to providing care for this shattered community until local health care system can meet its residents' needs.

In some respects, much of what we do feels very familiar to me-- a lot of minor illness and a few serious events like strokes and MI's. So far, with one one significant exception, there has has been blessedly little major trauma. A child flipped a four wheeler during the first week of deployment here. There is, however, one major difference between patients I see in the UNC ED and the folks I see here. Virtually all our our patients are in the midst of trying to regather their shattered lives. Most do this with astounding resiliance and an altered life perspective. Over and over I hear it. "Everything we own is gone, but my family's okay. That's what's important. We'll get through this."

We've all been waiting for the onslaught of chain saw injuries which almost always follow hurricanes, but they're not coming. Two days ago the reason why became apparent to me. The Mississippi highway patrol offered to take me up in one of their helicopters. The view from above showed damage more complete than I had understood from the ground. For a decade or so in the late 1980's and early '90's, when the risk of thermonuclear war with the Soviets seemed palpably possible, I was very active in Physicians for Social Responsibility, an organization dedicated to reducing the risk of nuclear war. I spent a great deal of time educating communities about the medical consequences of nuclear war, laying out in stark terms the damage they would see. Now, through the polycarbonate windows of the chopper, I saw a scenario that seemed weirdly nuclear in its power-- rows of stripped bare foundations; splintered and uprooted trees, all bowing in the same direction; railroad tracks at right angles to the ground. This is why there were few chain saw injuries. There was nothing left to save. No houses to release from oaken clutches. The houses were simply gone.