Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Galveston Update

Dear friends,
Thank you so much for the outpouring of concern and sympathy. I feel truly blessed to have such good friends. Here is the latest news from Galveston.

From a general standpoint:
80% of the island is damaged. UTMB is not seeing patients of any type at this point. DMAT teams are providing any necessary care. There is no electricity, no running water, and not enough fuel to start pumping water out of the flooded areas. Many of the emergency generators were damaged by storm. Phone lines and internet connectivity are spotty. Even cell phone coverage is unreliable. Today, UTMB estimates re-opening the doors with a skeleton crew next week. Services will be added as it becomes possible. It is just a guess that we may not be able to have inpatients for 4 to 6 weeks. Full operability of all the hospitals/clinics/outpatient services/area clinics will probably take months. Much of the operability of the hospital depends on the time it takes for the city/county infrastructure to be rebuilt.

This is emergency medicine's surge capacity nightmare. The nearest fully functional hospital is 60 miles away, in Houston, if someone has enough gas and a truck to get there through the water and the debris.

From a personal standpoint:
I am fine. I evacuated the day before the storm, and have been staying with my parents in West Texas. I will return to Dallas today or tomorrow. My home in Galveston is still standing......in 5 feet of water. The roof line is damaged and the front door was torn off, but the basic structure and most of the windows (?!?) are intact.

I am officially E2 personnel. I will be called back to Galveston in the next 3-4 days, and will live and work at the hospital until we go off emergency status. Hopefully they will be able to flush toilets and provide showers by then. My friends who are still there tell me it's a toss up as to what smells worse, the toilets or themselves.

My email is flooded. (Who knew that getting internet access in rural West Texas would be so hard?) The UTMB email is nonfunctional. I will try to post daily updates on the blog, and will answer my emails in as timely a fashion as possible.

I fear that the aftermath may be worse than the storm. The flood waters are a cesspool. There is no sewage or trash service. There is no electricity to run air conditioners and refrigerators. There is no water for washing hands or bathing, and I fear that even FEMA can't provide enough fresh water for everyone. There is not enough ice to keep food suitably cold, and not enough fuel to heat food properly. There is no gas to get off the island, and no stores to purchase goods.
AND....the storm hit Saturday a.m., but many of us have been displaced since the evacuation, seven days. Who knows how much longer the island will be unlivable?

I plan to provide updates through this blog. If you aren't a regular reader shame on you! No, seriously, please pass this on to others interested in the recovery: http://gardnersgate.blogspot.com/

Thank you again for all your care and concern in this trying time.

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