Tuesday, September 06, 2005


From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

“Every DMAT (Disaster Medical Assistance Team) team in this country is deployed,” said FEMA spokesman Marty Bahamonde. A dozen of the 35-person teams have been treating victims in tents at Louis Armstrong International Airport, just outside New Orleans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dispatched 140 people, while the Department of Health and Human Services has more than 700 people on the ground.

The unprecedented effort to provide care to tens of thousands of people has required millions of dollars, improvised medical techniques and, in at least one case, theft by a physician who persuaded local police to help him snatch medications from a pharmacy. For one full week now, doctors have worked in MASH-style surroundings, leaning over patients on flimsy military cots, flipping through textbooks to make sense of symptoms they have never seen before.

“I’m a pathologist,” said Greg Henderson, a physician who moved to the New Orleans area two weeks ago. Roaming the streets of downtown in his surgical scrubs, Henderson was suddenly confronting rashes and illnesses he hadn’t seen since medical school. Armed with a Physicians’ Desk Reference – the pharmaceutical bible – and the stolen medicines, he administered to the sick and dying in a hotel lobby and the corridors of the city’s convention center.

Thousands – including infants, elderly and patients with existing health problems – literally sat in the sun for days with no food, water or medicine. “They basically start to rot alive,” Henderson said as he led one group of ill people to McNabb’s military helicopters.

Many landed on the track field of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. In an arena and an adjacent field house, volunteers from Illinois, New Mexico and the federal Public Health Service Commissioned Corps staffed an 800-bed hospital, making the gymnasium the largest acute care facility in the state.


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