Sunday, September 14, 2008

From a Hurricane Ike Evacuee

This post is a personal note to my friends, wherever they may be.

I am fine. My family is fine. I evacuated Galveston before the storm, and have been staying with my family in West Texas. My home in Galveston is at least underwater. Details will have to wait until someone can actually get to the neighborhood. (This is probably not a good sign.)

There are some true heroes of emergency medicine who stayed at UTMB so that many of us could evacuate with our families. They include my boss and friend, Dr. Brian Zachariah, Dr. Joshua Feinstein, Dr. Joe Chang, Dr. Paul English, Dr. Robert Goh, Dr. Brent Vasut, and Dr. Jim Hunderup.

I spoke with Brian today briefly, and have been told that they have no air conditioning, no water for showers, no electricity, and virtually no telephone or internet communication ability. Other than that, they are exhausted, but in good spirits.

They have treated about 100 patients in the past 36 hours, most of them relatively minor. The DMAT team arrived today, and now clinical care is being provided by the DMAT teams. (THANK YOU!)

Everything I heard was a mixture of good news and bad news......most of the university and hospital buildings appear to be structurally sound. There has been extensive flooding and some wind damage. Emergency operations have moved back to the Trauma Building. (For those of you unfamiliar with the campus, the Trauma Building, which houses the Emergency Department, is less than 100 yards from the water. The Emergency Department is actually on the second floor, and has a drive-up entrance ramp.)

All clinical activities at UTMB (other than emergency) have been suspended indefinitely. Emergency patients are stabilized and evacuated.

The bleak outlook for the island is the most distressing part of the news I received from the team today. The main water supply to the island is disrupted. Since it travels under the bay to the island, they cannot begin to fix the problem at this time. The Causeway is the only roadway to the island, and it is closed for debris clearance. It will be closed until the structural integrity can be guaranteed. There is no electrical power to the island. City officials currently estimate that water and electricity will be restored in 2 to 4 weeks.

UTMB officials stated in the 3:00 briefing today that they hope to relieve the E1s (the people who stayed through the storm) with E2s in the next 2-3 days, so I will head back to work when that happens. Employees have been instructed to contact their supervisors for details. Of course, this will depend on the restoration of transportation to the island. The conservative estimation for return to baseline functionality is 4 to 6 weeks. For the meantime, we remain on emergency status.

Thank you to everyone who has kept us in your thoughts and prayers this week. Thank you to the many volunteers and sponsors at shelters across the country. Thank you to the Texas Guard, the DMAT teams, the MANY fire/police/military and search and rescue teams...there are no words to thank you for the gift you have given my beloved island. Your generosity will not be forgotten.

I will keep you posted over the next few weeks as the recovery continues.

Obviously this is a "pre" photo.

No comments: