CA CNA Katrina Volunteers

This is the link to a public photo album

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Where did they go?

On Thursday, Sept 15th we had a report of 4500 evacuees still in the Arena.(FYI, all of the evacuees in the Dome and Center were moved to the Arena - even tho- the Arena was cleared out 4 days before because the (Dome had better facilities) Never mind that there was a football game in the stadium that Sunday...(oops, nurses never speak up)
Then Hurricane Rita threatened and "they" loaded our patients onto buses to Arkansas (not-verified report?) Where did our patients go? Anyone track them? I have looked on published reports on the 'net with no luck... These were people with no ability to process (people asked me if there was some educational deficit) NO.. these were people in shock, not able to communicate, not able to process instructions about how to get a FEMA number, register with Red Cross as a missing person..etc... Shock about seeing the dead surround you.
Where did our patients go?

We thought we had it rough: read on

In the Wake of Katrina: A Surgeon's First-Hand Report of the New Orleans Tragedy
Posted 09/19/2005

Scott E. Delacroix, Jr., MD

Federal Emergency Mis-Management Agency (at Least Until Saturday Post Storm, Day 5)

Was in Madisonville, Louisiana, for the storm. Took 2 days to cut out of St. Tammany Parish because of all the trees down.

Wednesday: Post Storm, Day 2
While cleaning up after the storm in Madisonville, I heard Dr. London Guidry (surgery resident at Charity Hospital) put out a call for help over Clear Channel Radio. Decided to leave and try to get into New Orleans. The Causeway Bridge was not open nor was I-10 (Interstate 10) from Slidell into the city. Decided to go to Baton Rouge and then take I-10 in. After multiple, failed attempts, found gas at a Shell station near LSU's [Louisiana State University's] campus and got on I-10. Really wasn't sure where I was going. Rumors abounded about looting and bridges being blown out. Evacuees wandering the city. A levee break and the "bowl filling with water." Decided to try a back way into New Orleans through Destrehan. Got off the I-10 at Laplace and headed to Airline Highway. I met multiple police officers but was wearing scrubs and a white coat. Guess I didn't look like a looter. Laplace police, State police in Norco, and Destrehan police -- no one knew how to get into the city. All communication was down. No army or national guard anywhere. Made it down to Destrehan where Airline Highway was under water and blocked by 3000-lb sandbags. Spoke with a local police officer who had lost everything and was out working security on the highway. Told me to go back to 308 and get back to I-10. The stories of looting in New Orleans had caused everyone to be on the alert. A cop had been shot? All the gun stores had been looted and criminals were heavily armed? I was very nervous driving up to roadblocks with police officers on high alert. I learned that in my old truck in the pitch black with my lights on, every police officer had a gun drawn as I pulled up. I started to turn my lights off about 100 yd prior to roadblocks and turning the lights on in my car. This allowed them to see me in a white coat and alleviated me from breaking out in a sweat every time I had a gun pointed at my driver's seat. With my 38 in my lap, I was now back on I-10 from Highway 308. One more roadblock, and after giving a couple more bottled waters to state troopers, I was on I-10 at Kenner heading into the city. It was eerie. No lights anywhere. No police. No people. Couldn't see anything but what my dim headlights were illuminating -- a complete blackout. As I neared Causeway and I-10, I could see a mass of police cars and people.

I parked my car and walked into a sea of people. It was overwhelming. Helicopters were landing on the Westbound circle and having evacuees walk from the helicopters across the I-10 median, and people were placed behind barricades. Nonambulatory patients in stretchers were being placed on the 2 inside lanes of the inbound I-10. There were about 20 state police officers, 2-3 small trailers, of which one was loaded with medical supplies. As I walked up and viewed the scene, 2000-3000 people on the edge of the Interstate: standing, sitting, or lying down behind barricades. Between them and the highway lanes were barricades and state troopers. Two of the 4 traffic lanes open for passage. The remaining 2 lanes and the inside shoulder of the Interstate were crowded with a site out of a bad dream. Patients were laying on broken gurneys, were laying on cardboard boxes, were laying in the street. Some were extremely old and decrepit appearing -- unable to speak. Nursing homes and hospitals had somehow been evacuated to the I-10 and Causeway Interchange. Patients were laying on the ground and in small cots with their medical charts used as pillows. They numbered in the hundreds. On top of these, evacuees of all ages began to succumb to the elements and horrible conditions in which they were being held. A steady flow of elderly persons with chest pain and shortness of breath streamed across the barricades and into our "triage" area. Children ages 4-6 with seizure disorders began having seizures. Asthmatics and evacuees with emphysema began to come to triage seeking oxygen and respiratory treatment. Dehydration was apparent, especially in the elderly and mentally retarded patients who were laying in the streets. It was myself (a urology resident) and ER [emergency room] resident, Pat Dennis; a neurologist; 2 psychologists; and several nurses (Kelly Tourere and Danny Dickson); and some staff from Acadian ambulance. One FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] official was on the ground and helping to coordinate transportation, although for the first hour there was none. Supplies were very low. I was wiping off ventilation masks and reusing them to save supplies. There were sick people in need everywhere you walked. A highway of patients. The helicopters continued to land. Patients continued to come to our triage with their entire medical charts from whatever hospital they had been in -- a postoperative knee replacement, a postoperative coronary bypass, a mentally retarded nonambulatory lying there in diapers. What was going on in their minds? Someone's mom or dad who earlier had been in a hospital was now in our care lying on a highway. We had 3 oxygen tanks -- people had to wait to receive oxygen therapy. Triage became a 15-second read of a patient's medical chart and allotting people into a general 1, 2, or 3 category for priority transport onto one of the few ambulances. Around 2:00 am, a line of Acadian ambulances arrived to transport ill patients. That was the toughest part -- choosing who goes. "I've been laying here for 24 hours now." "Don't separate grandma or mom from us." I split up families, and sent mom with one epileptic child who had decreased consciousness for the past hour and left the other 3 kids with their 70-year-old grandmother to fend for themselves. There was nothing we could do. One family member with each medical patient. Buses did show up to take the "healthy" patients but short of causing a riot; there was no way to get the women and children or the elderly onto these buses. The weak had given up trying to get onto the buses. The young and strong pushed their way onto the buses without concern for the weak. It was sad to see. I met a gentleman who had recently finished his EMT [emergency medical technician] training -- Nick Pieper. He was bagging a ventilator-dependent cystic fibrosis child whose battery-powered ventilator had run out of juice. The child did end up getting onto one of the ambulances around 3:00 am, but to where I did not know. I spoke with someone who said that FEMA was setting up a hospital at the airport, and some would be going to Baton Rouge. The transport was slow. There was no central command. No definite place for these people. Didn't know how many more were coming, but that they just kept coming -- helicopter after helicopter. Supplies low, one of the psychologists contacted EOC [Emergency Operations Center] or DHH [Department of Health and Hospitals] in Baton Rouge and placed me on the phone to give a description of the supplies that we needed. Pedialyte, formula, oxygen, aspirin, IV [intravenous] sedation, and transportation. This chaos went on into the next morning. There were several bodies placed in the median behind our trailers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Read on if you can stand it

Thursday Dawn
Thankfully, an overcast morning. People had now been there for 36 hours. I was getting tired of lying to people and telling them to hold on a little longer for a ride. Ambulances and buses were more frequently arriving to transport patients, but again, getting the elderly and large families aboard was problematic considering the pushing and shoving when a bus arrived. One of the volunteers approached me and said that there was a medical convoy that had arrived to help and wanted to know where to set up. I walked about 2 blocks and met Gordon Bergh and the Austin City [Texas] EMS [Emergency Medical Services]. Gordon asked how he could help and where I wanted them to set up. They had a command and control station, 4 ambulances, and 8-10 EMTs. We discussed a plan to set up a triage station on the opposite site of the current one. Now our "hospital" had swelled to encompass both the East and Westbound lanes of Interstate 10. Helicopters still landing. About 3000-5000 people still in our location. I received word that the FEMA official said that they were pulling out. Until this point, FEMA was providing no medical assistance, but they were helping to obtain transportation for these people. The transportation was inadequate to say the least, and now they were pulling out? I approached the official and asked him whether it was true that they were pulling out and if so why. I was told that yes they were leaving, and he was unsure why. His comment was that the decision had been made by "people above my pay grade" as he shrugs his shoulders. Rumor was that shootings in New Orleans had spurred someone higher up in FEMA to pull back. This was ridiculous. We were 1.5 miles outside of New Orleans proper. At that time, we had no security problem. We did not have a security problem until later that day when transportation slowed almost to a standstill. No more FEMA, very little transportation. No coordination. It is Thursday -- 3 days post storm! There was no gunfire at our location. Only people in dire need of medical assistance and transportation. The lack of transportation for the people caused more of them to become medical patients. Dehydration and exhaustion. The FEMA official walked away leaving our crew, the local EMS crew from Austin City, and a mass of people -- patients lying on the Interstate in their own urine and feces. Supplies were still minimal -- oxygen, albuterol, IV fluids. I was rationing 2 bottles of nitroglycerin. No aspirin for ACS [acute cardiac syndrome]. Found the largest bottle of 2 mg of alprazolam (Xanax) I had ever seen -- 500 count. Immediately rolled one up in some cheese from an MRE (Military-issued meal ready-to-eat) and fed a big pitbull that had been scaring patients and myself for the past couple of hours. He went to bed until Friday morning (he was OK). State police were there to keep the general population off the Interstate lanes: about 3000-5000. Every time a bus would pull up to take the general population, the elderly and young would get shoved out of the way, and there was nothing that we or the state police could do without causing a riot. We attempted to put mothers with small children into some of the ambulances, but there were just too many hospital patients.

Triage continued through the day (Thursday) (Figure 1). Helicopters continued landing. We did accomplish to clear out the initial side of patients. With Austin EMS's help, they took over the triage while some of us tried to clean the area. There was trash everywhere. People had urinated and defecated where they lay waiting for transportation. We had cut holes into some of the cloth cots and placed boxes under the holes for sick patients to relieve themselves. It was a mess. This area was something out of a UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund] commercial.

Figure 1. (click image to zoom)
A small portion of the general public stranded at our triage station during the day on Thursday.

I ran into one of my Charity Hospital patients under the I-10 on Thursday morning. He had been evacuated from an apartment building in midcity with 150 seniors without water. He said they were in dire need of help. We spoke with the air traffic controller (military) and talked with Gordon from Austin City EMS. Coordination between the state police and the communications trailer from Austin was our best asset. Still no FEMA. No transportation and no coordination other than among ourselves on the ground. We were allotted a BLACK HAWK helicopter to fly water into the building. I hate flying. Two EMS technicians from Austin City, 4 state police officers from Houma, Louisiana, armed with AR-15 semiautomatic rifles, myself, Nick the EMT from New Orleans, and the ER doctor from Baton Rouge. Also accompanying us was a news crew from Austin KXAN 36 (an NBC affiliate) with reporter Rich Parsons. Austin City EMS would be pulling out of this area as soon as we returned. Bulletproof vests on, we loaded the chopper with water and MREs and took off. This was the first (and I hope only time) I would be seeing patients with a bulletproof vest, a 38 revolver in my scrub pants, and a white coat with 38-caliber cartridges jingling in my pocket. We flew into the city around 6:00 pm. Amazing site of destruction and flooding. The city where I grew up was under water. We found the building and circled a few times, but could not land on the roof. We landed at a softball field next to Cabrini High School by Bayou Saint John about 2 blocks away. Found a pirogue (a Louisiana flatboat), filled it with supplies, and waded through water about 2-3 ft deep and brought water and MRE's to the Park Esplanade Apartment complex. Triaged the grateful patients and went back to the LZ [landing zone]. Our chopper had taken off, and we were unable to get a lift out. Night fell and we were stranded. The state police officers contacted their commander by radio. Helicopters were no longer landing at night possibly secondary to gunfire. At this time, getting more and more nervous, we started popping glow sticks and laying them in a pattern to call in a chopper. Rich Parsons called into Austin and gave a television phone interview. We heard 3 shots fired from across the bayou. After 3-4 hours and hearing gunfire on the other side of the bayou, a BLACK HAWK finally landed and got us back to the LZ at Causeway and I-10. Nick the EMT and myself couldn't move. It is late Thursday night, and the triage center again has swelled to its prior state. Still no FEMA -- little transportation has these people languishing in horrible conditions. Austin City EMS pulled out and headed to the airport where FEMA was supposedly set up. Nick and I remained at Causeway and I-10 for a couple more hours and had to leave secondary to exhaustion.

St. Theresa's Prayer:

St. Theresa's Prayer:
> May today there be peace within.
> May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
> May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
> May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love
> that has been given to you.
> May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
> Let this presence settle into our bones, and allow your soul the
> freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
> It is there for each and every one of you.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Email from our Nurses

So good to hear from you carole. i am in south beach florida for palliative care confernce. will go to blog when i get home late sunday night. i cant believe houston has to evacuate!! we have "tropical storm " weather here. hope all of you are well. linda pene

I hope everyone made it home safe and sound...I know it was quite a strange first day home for me. A little surreal to be back in the regular routine. I am sending this to those on the posted list from the triage unit in the Reliant Center. Hopefully you can get any e-mail addresses you need from the "sent to" list. If it doesn't come through that way, e-mail me back and I'll write them out differently for you.

Christy Solorio (RN from UC Davis peds)

i am watching houston being evacuated on the news and it just seems surreal. how can this be happening again? what about all those evacuees who had just gotten housing, or the ones still in shelters? what about the red cross and other relief workers who are still deployed?
is anyone thinking about going again after rita hits???

helen hauser (rn from san francisco)

all my fellow CNA nurse friends,

I hope this email finds you all safe and sound in your respective California hometowns. I know that I did not work up close and personal with some of you in Houston, however each and everyone contributed to my personal experience working with the evacuees. I have never been prouder to be a nurse than now! Thank you all for your everyready spirit to help those in need. Each of your beautiful spirits have left an indelible mark on mine!
May you all feel proud of your dedication and committment to nursing, especially during this time of great need!
Blessings to all of you. Take care,
Patricia Salazar(Santa Maria, Ca.)

Kourtney's Story:
It’s why I was put here’ A UCI nurse on duty helping storm evacuees at the Astrodome helps save a baby

Print Text Only
'It's why I was put here'
A UCI nurse on duty helping storm evacuees at the Astrodome helps save a baby who was struggling to breathe.

Orange County Register

HOUSTON …quot; Scraped knees. Runny noses. Insulin shots.

Since Friday, the nurse from Orange County has dealt with routine medical needs while helping Hurricane Katrina evacuees huddled inside the Astrodome in Houston.

She volunteered to go with a group sent by the California Nurses Association, just feeling the need to do something.

Now, after a decidedly unroutine day that included saving a baby's life, Kortney Hyrchuk, 24, knows why she went to Texas.

Early Monday, about halfway through her 7 p.m.- to-7 a.m. shift, Hyrchuk, a neonatal nurse in the intensive care unit at UCI Medical Center in Orange, saw a local nurse rushing toward her with a baby in her arms.

The local nurse had been patrolling the floor, cleaning up vomit or handing out water - nausea and diarrhea still being common ailments among evacuees.

The nurse - Hyrchuk recalled only her first name, Mari - had found the infant lying on her back on a cot, with no adults around.

Mari noticed the girl, just over 1 month old, was barely breathing. Also worrisome, the girl felt cold to the touch.

Mari tried to stimulate the infant but was unable to wake her.

So she scooped up the baby and rushed over to Hyrchuk, the only specialist in neonatal care at the volunteer clinic.

"She was stimulating the baby by rubbing its chest and tickling its feet, but there wasn't a lot of response," Hyrchuk recalled.

She remembered the baby from earlier. The baby's mother had brought her to the clinic, saying her child may have had a cold, but the mother failed to consult with a doctor as recommended.

Now, the mother was playing poker about 50 feet from where her baby had been found, oblivious to the unfolding drama.

Hyrchuk knew the baby needed to be realigned so her airway could be cleared. Her nose was severely clogged.

From her training, Hyrchuk knew to position the baby so her chin was not compressed into her chest, and to hold her up vertically.

She performed a nasopharyngeal suction, using a bulb syringe to clear out her nose.

"I didn't even know we had bulb syringes here," one volunteer surgeon said.

The baby was breathing, but faintly.

"She was still really plugged up," Hyrchuk said. "I found some Neosporin for lubrication and put in on a long tube and sucked more of the (stuff) out of her nose."

Paramedics arrived and Hyrchuk accompanied the baby to Texas Children's Hospital.

"By the time we got there she was screaming her head off," Hyrchuk said.

She said that if Mari had not noticed the baby, the baby would have died from an airway obstruction due to a cold or improper sleeping position.

"People are saying I did something extraordinary, but it was more like something I was trained to do," Hyrchuk said. "I just assessed the problem and did what I was supposed to do.

"People were kind of surprised that I jumped in and I knew what to do. But I am a neonatal nurse."

Hyrchuk returns to Orange County on Friday.

"To me, this experience is why I came on this trip," she said. "It's why I was put here."


Hardesty reported from Santa Ana.
From Christine:

FYI My brother was able to get into New Orleans with his partner (both are pilots) and company on Tues. to check on his cab and his apartment and my father's house. This was his description. it took over 5 hours as he was escorted by local law enforcement, since evacuation was in progress. Attached is his description.


Subject: Hurricane Rita Evacuation and Personal Update Story
Date: Sep 21, 2005 12:30 PM
Wednesday September 21, 2005

Well we go again.

To Preface...

Yesterday, 7 company people and I flew into Houma airport, in haste due to Hurricane Rita. We boarded two smaller aircraft which flew us to Southern Seaplane on the Westbank. From there we drove into New Orleans assisted by Local Law enforcement, which allowed us to assess our personal properties....I was able to tour the entire area....from the westbank we took the chalmette ferry across the Mississippi river over to Braithewae (sp.?) then through Violet and Mereaux. We went to my collgue's (Clate) residence in Mereaux and found destruction not comprehensible, unless seen in person. It looked like a seen out of a movie, surreal, not possible....vehilcles and boats on the tops of houses, whole houses including slabs, moved and blocking roadways.....about a foot of mud inside Clate's house prevented us from getting inside....I broke his front window, armed with only protective clothing, masks and gloves and a side mirror used to brake the glass.....he went inside....note...two major smells i smell of dead flesh/decaying garbage and the other-water/mold decay...unbearable even with a mask....Clate went inside and recovered one box from a desk from his second floor....his house was completely under water.....we then made it to Judge Perez and Paris ave....after being cleaned and watered at a checkpoint with Rhode Island Fire the I-10 Westbound to Orleans View Carre' exit to my father's house in MidCity....the water level could be seen upwards of four feet along the house down orleans ave. to Carrollton Ave.Went to my father's house 4001 Dumaine St and made it inside. Went into his attic, no leaks...his property had water marks up to the second siding board, about six inches from his actual floor....lucky....uptown was fine, the westbank is up and running with supplies, and limited services orleans was a ghost new taxi cab I found on the 5th floor of 901 Fulton parking garage across from the Convention Center....front driver window broken, steering column destroyed and wires hanging down...very thankful...minimal damage...all other vehicles had same looting damage....I was able to jump the battery from the police car and get the motor spinning,but no fire, no problem....left vehicle there for later recovery...not knowing where Hurricane Rita was going to hit, figured it was the safest place, for now...after a rendezvous at the westbank yard, and a drive back to Houma, and flight back to Houston....We began evacuation preparation/planning of Houston.....yesterday...

Today....traffic building as all cities, Galveston and North, slowly move upstate in anticipation of Hurricane Rita's impact late Friday night, Saturday morning on the Galveston hotels available, as it seems, within the whole state of Texas.....I have packed what little things I have, relocated a car onto Hobbly airport parking garage, and packed airplane in anticipation of flight out tonignt/tommorrow morning..... now 2pm. Found out that city officials are expecting possible 5 feet of water in the downtown Houston area depending on the storm surge....hope all affected are taking Rita seriously...

Hope all are recovering successfully....Don't know where I'll be but phone still good 832-620-9392....


Hi Carole,
Great to hear from you and find out that everyone is gradually getting
into their routine. I was thinking if we had stayed another week as
planned, we
would be evacuating ourselves! Those poor people who had to be moved
So glad to hear that Houston and Galveston didn't get slammed as
Good to hear from you. Stay in touch. I will go to the web site as
Thanks for all your work,
Sharon J. Hill

Hi Everyone, I know we are all back home and into our safe day to day routine. I also know, because of our experience in Houston, none of us will be the same again. We have been fortunate and privileged to have been with people at the most vulnerable time of their lives. We were there to be of service to others, but it was a blessing to us to have people trust us enough to share not only their intimate feelings , experiences, and worries, but also their hopes for the future. I'm sure we will all keep in our hearts a treasured moment shared with someone.
These experiences touch us deeply and change us forever. They expand our consciousness to the interrelationship of our social problems and make us aware of our ongoing responsibility to one another; not only at the time of a named disaster. Most of the people we shared time with, live every day with the compounded disasters of poverty, racism, injustice, inadequate housing, poor education, lack of health care etc. Katrina was just another assault on their lives . We cannot forget that.
It was a privilege to have met all of you and together shared the experienced in Houston. Your flexibility, energy, and dedication is admirable. Thank you all, you did a fantastic job!
I look forward to seeing you all again. Betty

Hi Linda, I Went to work finally this past weekend, my nurses are so supportive of the cause! They really enjoyed the picture of you delivering their boxes of stuff. Then they sent 3 more and Sharon and I delivered on Friday. Did you see the pictures of what was left at the Arena? I was told that the Red Cross was going to set up a clinic after we left on Thursday on the second floor and have regular buses take people to the county clinic for treatment. (Was I dreaming?) We returned there on Friday pm and the policeman at the front door said he did not know where the Red Cross medical clinic was located... We went to the second floor and the command center did not know. They went to find the Red Cross command person who said the "clinic" was located in the Arena in Room C. This was the area where the evacuees were located the first night we were there (then moved,) and where they brought the first contingent of "sick and elderly" on Thursday night. Sharon and I showed up with our badges and the Red Cross nurses went out of their minds when they saw us. "Replacements!" "We have been here since 5:30 a.m." (It was now 6 pm) "We are dying"...They did their best to get us to take over their assignment that evening, We told them that we were leaving at 5 am the next morning and our tour of duty was over. Then they reported that patients were being transported by ambulance to the county hospital Emergency Room and it was "overwhelmed." And the County was considering setting up an outpatient clinic there in the hospital to handle the needs. OF COURSE, a few days later our patients (those who were left) were transported to Arkansas in buses to a new "home." I wonder how much support they are receiving now. I feel that we all were a big part of helping to make these victims of a natural disaster to feel that there were caring people there for them, and we hoped that they could get on with their lives and their future, despite their trauma and illness. I won't forget my uselessness as a nurse for their mental stress/illnesses, and remember instead the ability we gave to give hugs, love and hope to all we cared for. I am proud to be a CNA Nurse!

Keep up the tradition of "Nurses having fun" Love you for it!

Carole Rogers
p.s this "clinic" had a 8.5 x 11 " sign on the front wall going into Hall C saying
"First Aid"

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Nobody Knows the Troubles I've seen

The stories are heartbreaking. “No body knows the troubles I’ve seen” a song I sang to myself for the evacuees many times Obviously a great deal of shock and suffering, and we were trying to treat medical problems.

A 21 year old man came in for a refill of his Ambien, saying he could not sleep. “I watched my Sister die as we came out of the roof. Something hit her in the head.” He had an abscess in his left elbow, “A nail in the roof punctured me.” He had experienced a panic attack the previous day, he said. “I was just waiting in line and became very fearful for no reason.” “I don’t know why God did not take me instead – I would have been glad to go.” I tried to reassure him, saying “God has another plan for you.” – to which he agreed…

Another middle aged woman told me that she was on a bridge at the Astrodome for three days; two days with no food or water. “I watched dead bodies pass by in the river below me, including babies. It was something I do not wish anyone to ever see.”

An elderly woman, 71 years old came into the computer center looking for her husband. She was ambulatory, but was using a wheelchair as a walker. Her two sons were sheltered elsewhere in Texas but hasn’t seen her husband since they were separated at the Superdome. They separated men and women at the Dome when put into buses, and this separated many families.

Kourtney, our opera singer and Pediatric nurse found a 5 week old baby on a cot at the Astrodome, that was cold and blue. She took a syringe out of her pocket and suctioned the baby (a syringe, not a bulb) and revived it. “Our Heroine”

Karen Kalua RN was stationed in Gulfport LA at Keesler Air Force Base as a medic in 1981-1985. “This is why I had to volunteer.” Karen goes on: “At first I was negative about joining the effort with California Nurses Association. Karen was part of the CPMC when CAN was part of ANA – but I had the opportunity to sit next to a nurse in the airplane on the way here and I learned about all of the good work that CNA does.”

Karen is a Labor and Delivery Nurse and worked in the OB/Gyn Clinic in the Arena. She work with a Gynecologist who was “the most amazing man I have ever seen.” The doctor kept a log with all of the patients he saw, and when possible did a telephone follow up on all of them. Karen said there was a problem with female infections of all of the women who had been in the dirty water of New Orleans. They cultured all of them, and it is interesting to note that the infections “all had the same distinct smell.” She was worried that the nurses in screening were not detecting all of the female infections, saying that the women were probably changing their underwear every night – and not realizing they had a problem. His name: Todd Ivey MD.

Meet Daniel, his picture is posted on Carole’s photo album. He was a ceramic tile layer who had worked for the same construction company for 35 years. He proudly shows his hands, knobby from his work. His wife and daughter are in hospitals in Dallas – one had to have brain surgery for an object that punctured her skull. His other daughter is with him in Houston and plans to find a home a stay here with his grandchildren. His company has contacted him saying they want him back to help with the construction work needed now in New Orleans. And he has made up his mind to go. Katrina is fracturing families all over the country.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Do You Know What It Means to miss NEW ORLEANS?

William Faulkner’s evocative characterization of elegantly decadent Old
New Orleans was written for the Times Picayune in 1925 as follows:

A courtesan, not old and yet no longer young, who shuns the sunlight that the illusion of her former glory be preserved. The mirrors in her house are dim and the frames tarnished, all her house is dim and beautiful with age. She reclines gracefully upon a dull brocade chaise-lounge,there is the scent of incense about her, and her draperies are arranged in formal folds. She lives in an atmosphere of a bygone and more precious age. And those whom she receives are few in number,and they come to her through an eternal twilight

These were some of my recent thoughts and sadness at the realization that some of the old historic charm and neighborhoods will be demo-ed in my hometown NOLA (most of the City is a historic district.) No one wants Disneyland and strip malls. We know it will come back, the people, food, culture and soul will heal. Home is home. The people will bring the spirit back.

Some humour.Check out the funny riff by Robin Williams at the Wynton Marsalis (his father Ellis taught many of my friends, including Harry Connick Jr., music at NOCCA, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) "Higher Ground" Benefit Concert at Lincoln Center in's very funny. Speaking of Mardi Gras "I got word when the water started to rise: The floats this year will really have to float" at Sept. 17 2005
I still could't figure out how to add a link. I tried.

"Rejoice at the death and cry at the Birth".....Jelly Roll Morten (in the spirit of Jazz funerals)

That's Right I'm Not from Texas....I could not help myself from singing this song. I was very impressed with the spirit and patience, kindness and southern hospitality of the Texans to the displaced people of New Orleans and to us volunteers, from the Texas nurses who came to volunteer after working their shifts(one stayed until 3am to help after working all day), to the kindness of the hotel workers at the Holiday Inn where we stayed. The Texans helped heal a group of people who were feeling so rejected after what they experienced waiting at the Dome and Convention Center. Many will make a new life. That's right!!!!!Here's the lyrics. I love Lyle.
You can hear part of it at

That's Right I'm Not from Texas

Artist/Band: Lovett Lyle
Lyrics for Song: That's Right (partial lyrics)
Lyrics for Album: Live in Texas

You say you're not from Texas
Man as if I couldn't tell
You think you pull your boots on right
And wear your hat so well

So pardon me my laughter
'Cause I sure do understand
Even Moses got excited
When he saw the promised land

That's right you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
But Texas wants you anyway

That's right you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
But Texas wants you anyway

See I was born and raised in Texas
And it means so much to me
Though my girl comes from down in Georgia
We were up in Tennessee

And as we were driving down the highway
She asked me baby what's so great
How come you're always going on
About your Lone Star State

I said that's right you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
But Texas wants you anyway.....

So won't you let me help you Mister
Just pull your hat down the way I do
And buy your pants just a little longer
And next time somebody laughs at you

You just tell 'em you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
That's right you're not from Texas
But Texas wants you anyway

Thank you TEXAS..."Texas is great" as painted by a child from New Orleans....see the photos. Thanks to all of the fun nurses from CNA, our photojournalist Carol, fearless bargainer and troop leader Linda (who cared to worry about me when i was missing and visiting w my brother)and got us to the airport on time and Essie, who volunteered for the "Vomitorium" and worked night shift and drove us around and got sick, Hugs to Reneee and Myrim, for their smiles hugs and support, to Laura who braved her way to Starbucks and met an impostering doctor,to Lisa for your presence and great hair and to Kortney....who worked by my side screening patients in the Astrodome, wheeling vomiting patients and found a sick baby...(still need to hear that story and now you actually sang at the wedding.) Amazing. I was amazed at the nurse volunteers who took it upon themselves to leave their families, drive to Houston, and worked w me in Quarantine, from N. Carolina, Texas and other southern states. Thanks to CNA and Betty for organzing all of this.

Christine Chryssovergis UCSD Nurse from NOLA

Friday, September 16, 2005

Remembrances of my Houston Experiences

The help I was able to provide in Houston made a difference for the better. I only wish that I could have been there even sooner. Those who were there the first days told of 18-hour work days, with more and more patients yet needing to be treated.

The Harris County Hospital District had a humongous task dropped on them. They didn't have the luxury of forming committees to plan task forces to figure out how to survey resources to see what could be done as my hospital system (University of California) is still in the process of doing. They just had to do it and do it now. Those health care workers of Harris County with true leaders as their DONs and Medical Directors put a workable system together in the moment as it was needed. These people are true heroes and have my great admiration.

I mostly worked in the Triage and Fast Track areas of the clinic set up in the Reliant Arena. Most everybody I saw had been in the "dirty water" in New Orleans. They needed tetnus and hepatitis A vaccinations. Many had chronic illnesses like hypertension and diabetes for which they needed prescription refills of their daily medicines like insulin and blood pressure pills. I talked with an OB-Gyn doctor who said that many of the pregnant women coming in to her had not had any pre-natal care. Who knows how many among the thousands out there will never see a doctor until they deliver and maybe not even then. An OB nurse told me that they sent a 15 year old to the hospital who was 26 weeks along in labor. Oh how I wish we had universal health care!

Most of the others I saw that came through the clinic had minor wounds incurred while getting out of New Orleans. A lot of people modestly told stories of how they helped others to the superdome or a freeway where a pickup bus was supposed to come. Neighbor helping neighbor, stranger helping stranger. It still deeply touches me to think of it.

On Monday evening, while walking back to my hotel, I saw a few people demonstrating across the street from the Reliant Stadium. They were the New Black Panthers who were there to rally support for black (and working people) power. They were calling for the impeachment of Bush because of his mangled response to this emergency. I spoke with one of the protestors about the probable education level of the bulk of the people here. So many had limited verbal skills, unable to express anything without the F-word. We guessed that few had a high school education. Many of the young adult males dress in very baggy pants that are pulled up only to the top of the leg. It takes a certain amount of skill in how you stand and how you walk to keep pants like that up. But I thought about these guys walking like that into a job interview and them not getting very far. And all for a job that paid $5/hr. They must figure that it's better to take their chances on the street.

The other thing that I wondered about is the life skills the evacuees here have. Obviously they are survivors. But do they have the skills to know how to think ahead, plan ahead, budget ahead? Given money, do they realize what they will need it for? Those that have drug habits continue to need the drugs and indeed have found their drugs. Many people that came through the clinic wanted narcotics. Many wanted meds for pain--vicodin was on many's list of medicines, but the clinic stocked no narcotics. Apparently during the first few days a pharmacy truck was robbed, much to the disappointment of those seeking narcotics.

It is my belief that some of those that I literally rubbed shoulders with here in Houston will not want to take advantage of this chance for a new start. Some will want to, but not know exactly how even with all the aid. And some will take this chance and plug themselves and their families into the American Dream. Because of them, all that we have done and will yet do, is worth it.

Please check out my photos at

Sue, RN, proud California Nurses Association member

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Volunteering in the Computer Center

"Technology for All" is a non profit that set up a computer center for the evacuees in the AstroDome with about 50 computers on a DSL line. Then put out the call for volunteers to assist the "residents" to help them find family members, apply for FEMA, find housing, find jobs, apply registered as a "missing person." Judi Davis came from Portland Oregon on the same airplane as me, paid her own way and is staying with a friend nearby. I stop in to volunteer on my off time, and have seen what a valuable service they are offering.

Today I helped a person apply on line for a duplicate ID card from the Louisiana Dept. Motor Vehicles. DMV is promising a 72 hour reponse and sending to either the resident's post office box that FEMA gave them or General Delivery here at the Dome Post office. I also found an organization close to a young person's new apartment where he can get used furniture. (The Salvation Army said they were not giving out furniture when I called their main number...)He also was in college in LA as a Sophomore, and found him a contact number near his apartment for a community college nearby that is registering students from the evacuation areas. For every person who came in looking for a missing person, I found at least one missing family member with a phone number to call! We ring the cow bell and everyone cheers when we find a person.

Nicole was looking for her mother, four sisters and two nephews, last seen at the time of the flood. I was able to find one sister who was living temporarily at a Pastor's home somewhere in Louisiana. Her sister had posted the home phone number, and Nicole went straight away to the free telephone center. One person who came to see me was living in Section 8 housing in New Orleans, and we sent him to the Housing Center back at the Arena to find an apartment locally. Evidently, they give immediate vouchers with no pre-qualification if they can prove they received Section 8 housing in LA. He was a disabled person.

The word is that "they" are moving all of the people housed in the AstroDome and the Reliant Center to the Arena on Friday. There is a football game at the Ballpark on Sunday. Isn't that coincidental? Especially since they moved all of the people out of the Arena last Wed. night to the AstroDome because the Dome was "better suited" for them. Now they are going to move everyone to the Arena. I hope it will not be in the middle of the night like the last time.

There was a wedding in the middle of the AstroDome today at 3 pm! One of our nurses is an opera singer and was part of the ceremony. See my picture album. The bride was beautiful, wearing a white dress, and everyone in the dome cheered for them. She was escorted down the "aisle" (yellow tape) by the boxer Hollyfield? See his picture. (Go to "links" in the upper right hand corner.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Violence in the Dome

I had one young woman on Thursday morning who came into Triage who was a rape victim the night before. She was in so much stress and anguish. I gave her a hug and we sent her off to OB/Gyn. (Maybe 16-18 years old?) I was told that there were several suicide attempts during the week that we were there, several times nurses found old people dead on their cots because they had to family to look after them. There were gunshot wounds, people saying they were in fights.


\We need to be concerned about communicable diseases. Coughing from the mouth, any nausea vomiting - put a safety mask on those people on triage. Females wont own up to yeast infections or bladder infections... ask about that. They were walking in dirty water and this needs to be addressed. Anyone with nausea/vomiting and diarrhea has to be sent to the Hydration clinic. It is top priority except for life threatening diseases. There is a major outbreak of Norwalk virus and needs to be contained. People brought into us us with Norwalk virus outbreak had not been able to eat or drink for 2-3 days; after one liter of normal saline - they made a remarkable recovery! (Why are you not surprised?)

Nurses get Norwalk virus. Even after religious handwashing, three nurses came down with the virus. Strange - starts out with a sore throat, then ends up with major diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. So far, it has only lasted 24 hours for those nurses affected/

Are you stressed out?

I asked in Triage today. " I just buried my momma today."

"Hey this woman is talking to you"

Said a Houston Police officer sitting at a check point into the Dome. I looked around and saw a middle aged black woman about 6 foot tall and weighing 250 pounds. I went up to her and she grabbed my hands. "Do you remember me?" "How do I remember you?" "You went through hoops to get me my medicine." (Big bear hug) "Well my medicine that I need will not be ready until Thursday." I do not remember what medicine she needed, but gave a big sign of disgust. What do we have to do? Many patients, especially those with tooth abscess (does anyone relate to that pain?)-especially those who have just undergone minor surgery I/D to infections in their lower limbs from walking in dirty water and having some foreign object penetrate their skin? NO NARCOTICS PRESCRIBED. NADA...

Mental Health Services

In addition to their medical problems, most of our patients are suffering/will be suffering post traumatic stress syndrome. I looked at a middle aged woman and asked if she was ok. She said no, " I have an 85 year old mother who is handicapped from a stroke and my baby sister still at our home in (some Parish not yet evacuated.) I cannot deal with FEMA payments or anything until I find my family.")

I had a patient who showed up with her 14 year old Grandson's medical file. She said that she brought her Grandson in for treatment to Mental Health Services the day before, but she did not receive one prescription. She said that her Grandson was in the Dome "out of control." I asked her how many people in her family; she said 8 total. I observed and told her that she was trying to take care of her family and not taking care of herself. She started crying loudly, saying "I cannot take it anymore." I put my arms around her waist and escorted her to mental health services.

There were patients brought into us the day after the FEMA debit card riot. One man in a wheelchair said he was 100% disabled and a Viet Nam Veteran. He was holding his left shoulder saying he could not move it. He said that the Houston Police Department threw him over a metal barrier, and tried to beat him up, complaining about racism. I can only say that the Police Dept. personnel I met were humane, caring people. Female officers were stationed in the "females only showers" area; courteous, friendly... but I do not have to deal with the skin color issue. As MLK says "it's the color of your soul" (Dave said this.)

On the day of the FEMA riot, all of the centers were in "lock down." No one could leave, no lunch arrived, no supplies.

This is what I understand about the FEMA checks to evacuees:
If one does not have an existing bank account with info on number, branch, etc. - then a check will be mailed to their post office box. FEMA opened a Post office box for everyone on the spot. I was told that checks would be delivered in 1-2 weeks to this po box. I also heard that "they" were placing 2000 families a day into housing. So where were the checks to be mailed when they leave? I was also told that there were banks located in the parking lot willing to open zero balance accounts for the evacuees - I tried to explain to Nicole, a new arrival from a shelter, that she should open a bank account with a local bank so she could get an automatic deposit prior to getting her FEMA check. With an existing account, her check would be automatically deposited withing 24-48 hours. She did not process this information. She was more worried about connecting with her family. I met Nicole in the Computer Center where she gave me seven names of family members, including her mother, 4 sisters and and two nephews. I found one sister who was living with a Pastor's family in Lousiana. She was so overjoyed she made both of us cry... More about Nicole later...

Connecting with family: this is the major concern of people residing here. I heard one elderly woman tell a worker that when she was lining up in buses at the Superdome, that they were putting men in separate buses from the women. And these buses went to different shelters in three states. (Do you get this picture?) One woman told me that she was waiting in line to get on a bus at the Superdome and thmilitary told her that the people in line needed to stay "in single file, if they did not - they would be shot." I am only reporting this comment as I heard it and do not verify any truth.

I sat in the Computer Center all day with volunteers doing a great job of connecting people with family members. The cowbell rang all day. (The tradition is that you have the family member ring the bell and all those present holler and clap their hands.) I was able to help about 4 people find family when I figured out the computer system in the afternoon. Everyone who came to me found a relative looking for them! It was such an emotional event. (And I came there to de-stress!)

At one point, Judi (a person I met on the airplane coming into Houston to volunteer in the computer centers) was in the process of getting placement for a 13 year old (Judi tell your own story later) She said the Continental Airlines had a table in the AstroDome and was offering free one way tickets to any evacuee. This young man had a sister in Connecticut; Judi was working with Social Service and Child Protective Agency to make it happen. I said "Judi, you are a social worker here!"
It is whatever it takes, just like nursing." :)

"I am the poorest richest person in town"

Cachetic, poor nutrition, 58 year old man. Asked where he lived. "See that tree just outside; that's where I am. Can't stand to be inside. I lived under a tree inNewOrleans, now I live under a tree in Houston.I am an alcholic and drink a few beers every day; but today I drank a half pint of whisky." Asked why he was in our Clinic. Said " I want to see a talkin' doctor - not a cuttin' doctor." Why so? "Well I saw real ghosts when I woke up today, and they are not shakin' me. I saw a lot of dead bodies in N/O, and they are talking to me today." Off we go to Mental Health.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Nurses' Viewpoint

The entire medical triage system works efficiently, except if you need to make exceptions (like no medical record; or someone needs to be seen immediately.)
See the system works like this: you show up with your illness and wait (not too long at this time) Last week according to Tina and Brian they had people passing out in line with vomiting and diarrhea as a common occurance. They processed 150 people an hour and it was total chaos. We were lucky to see 50 an hour? Pre-screening includes a public health worker that needs to ask pertinent questions about your exposure to TB, HIV, Hepatitis; evaluate your medical condition in terms of any communicable diseases that may be hazardous for the entire population. People in closed quarters are always at risk; especially those with exposure to dirty water and foreign objects that puncture the skin underwater. This was a major concern - lots of cellulitis going around. I had one 16 year old patient brought in by her father; she had been treated the day before with wounds on her lower legs. He said she had been walking in the water with rubber boots which overflowed over the tops and left her feet wet with contaminated water for a long time...Today her legs were red, hot and inflamed despite the incision and drainage done the day before. She was not running a fever, but we all know that we need to stay on top of this. She had been given tylenol which may have masked a fever. The only reason this young girl was being treated was because her family trusted our medical system to take care of her and I pray that she has healthy legs tomorrow. This is not always the case. Most of the people/families we saw are poor black people with very few resources. And they did not have a car to get out of town when the call came out to evacuate the city. Nor were there any buses running to take them anywhere with any destination. The only thing I can say is that the horror of losing your family member andor your neighbor is a nightmare you wont want to live again. I interviewed people who were in water "up to their arm pits for four days" before being rescued. Look at them in the eye and ask "what is your medical problem?" "Do you have any cuts or bruises on your body?" Many people brought in their babies because they "itched all night." This was not a insect bite; they were exposed to caustic chemical irritants and who knows what the long run answer may be.

Then there are the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome patients you will all see on your doorstep - only waiting to introduce itself. Today we had many people with high blood pressure; despite taking medication. So you say "You have had a major trauma in your life; and this is causing your blood pressure to be so high." We have mental health team; they should be handing out their business cards with a "talk to me" logo to 90% of the survivors. Fortunately we can triage to medical and to mental health at the same time. Unfortunately, they lose their medical chart- even though we write a sticky note to "send to mental health after this visit" ..... I had several times to look into the eyes directly and say "Mama - you have suffered. We have help here to deal with suffering. You should let me take you to them so you can talk about what happened to you."

Dr. Silvers: I had an infectious disease MD come to the center to volunteer. Little did I know that he was from New Orleans, homeless, and out of business. Because I could not get any answers from Adult Medicine about their need for this specialty; I introduced him to the "poopys scoopy" clinic. (Nurses later named it the "vomitorium.") Norvo or Norwalk virus (the cruise ship disease} has taken over all the centers.

Did I tell you that there are/were four centers in this complex? The Astrodome was the first "accomodation"; then they sent people with "overflow" to the Reliant Stadium; and here we are in the Reliant Arena. Then there is a "Brown" Convention Center where more are living. We oriented Wed. night; a few went to work that night; 7 out of 15 volunteered for the 12 hour night shift the next day. The hard core dedicated nurses here to make a difference understood the light duty nurses (like me) who have never worked nights in their lives. I am amazed. What a team. The Arena was "evacuated" overnight from our first night of orientation until we arrived the next 7 am. (Where are the people who were sleeping here last night? Answer: "They were moved to Reliant Center where accomodations are more comfortable
A patient told me they escorted everyone over there in the middle of the night; he finally said he laid down to go to sleep at 2am. There are large halogen like lights in the Center and the Dome that stay on all the time, how to people sleep? Then the stadium loud speaker blasts out (Joe Blow please report to section 220). The first night I was in the Dome, there was an annoucement "If anyone wants to relocate to West Palm Beach Florida, Reverend (Name)is here and has 8 homes available and jobs for the families. Go to section 334 to meet him now."

Cool, huh? More later
Carole Rogers

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The new city of "Houleans"

One of my patients happily told me that she had just found a home for her family in Houston, but was really going to miss New Orleans. But she decided to give her new home town a new name: "Houleans". She asked me to take her picture as the first founding family of the city of "Houleans."

Another patient was telling his story of how he rescued 13 people off their roofs in his neighborhood from ages 8 to 83. I told him that he should write a book about his experiences. He hesitated, saying that he "didn't write." But asked me to write it for him, and take his picture so we could see who he is.

Jerome Hutchens MD, Psychiatrist in Houston Texas was a volunteer in the Mental Health Clinic. He requested a volunteer to help him with his wheelchair into his car because his shift was over. He told me he was looking for a potential girlfriend. I took his picture and told him I would publish it on the internet. (Not the Yahoo Personals though!)


Who's on first?

The tall tales abound:
They (no one knows who "they" is) are going to close the medical center on Thursday. The Medical Center will stop providing services 24 hours a day.
The evacuees will be all moved out by Friday night because there is a ball game here on Saturday.
There is a "conspiracy theory" - George Bush opened the levy to flood New Orleans to get rid of the poor black people there, and the murderers and sick people.
Every one was to go to the Reliant Center on a certain day and they would receive a debit card from FEMA for $3000. FEMA ran out of cards, or their computer crashed. Then 4000 people were to go to one of 8 Western Union offices and apply for a $2000 check that would be mailed to them. If people had an existing account, they could get funds electronically deposited to their bank and have access within 2-3 days. If they did not have a bank account they would be mailed and received in 2-3 weeks. Post office boxes have been set up here at a ticket center/USPO for people with no mailing address.
There is no way to identify people with no picture ID. People returned several times to collect multiple FEMA debit cards.
There have been 5 suicide attempts, several rapes, and gun shots wounds here since inception.
All of these statements are gossip.

The "Medical Center" takes up almost the entire Arena. The sleeping area is now empty; they moved evacuees to the Dome a few days ago.
We triage four levels:
1) Life threatening: respiratory distress, seizures, chest pain with cardiac hx.
2) Immediate medical attention: Diabetes - hyper or hypo glycemia, dislocation/fracture with neurovascular compromise
3) Medical Care - Needs work up: Abdominal pain -(nausea, vomiting) These patients go directly to Hydration Clinic; Hypertension, Diabetics needing assessment. The Diabetic Clinic was set up daily from 2 - 4 pm. Otherwise sent to Adult Medical.
In Medical Care, our choices were Adult Medical, Ortho, Pediatric, OB-Gyn, Eye, ENT, Nephrology and General Surgery. Also Mental Health Clinic. There is a Mobile Dental Unit but was closed on Sat/Sun. Also an Optometic Dispensary; the Lions Club showed up on Sat/Sun. Not all clinics were open at the same time.
4) Fast Track: Sore throat, Lacerations/rashes; Isolated limb injuries, prescriptions, Pregnancy Testing.

We had several cases of patients who needed critical medical attention who should have been sent a hospital emergency room but we try to handle what is presented. About half of the patients coming in have nausea/vomiting/abdominal cramps/ diarrhea and get moved directly to "Hydration." This clinic was named " 24 hour Isolation" at first and was changed to hydration because people did not want to go into a place where they would have to stay any length of time. We also had a large Isolation area where numbers of people were actually living who had communicable diseases. It was closed on Sunday, dont know why. Some of our nurses volunteered there and maybe they can tell us.

Another 25% of our patients have infected lacerations/wounds of the feet and lower legs. Many have already been incised and drained; on antibiotics, with fevers, return visits to redress the wounds. Babies especially have skin rashes from being exposed to dirty water.

I spoke with Kelly Weller, a teacher for EMT's who was circulating around the clinic supervising her volunteers. She said that she was working in the Dome doing triage last weekend - processing approximately 400 people per hour. The EMS parameters were: 1) Dead 2) Fixing to die 3) Breathing.

SWIFT, a local agency that handles Senior Citizens issues requested RN's to sweep the different living areas here and find seniors needing medical care and/or housing. Nurses found old people who were dead on their cots and some who did not know who they were or where they were. We triaged several they sent in by EMT transport who were in diabetic coma, and some that were just generally confused/demented. One old guy told us he was trying to cut his toenails sitting on his cot, and was bleeding from his big toe. He said that he has no feeling in his foot due to diabetic neuropathy, and did not realize he was cutting himself. The nurses chastised his, saying "you know better than to cut your toenails yourself." I said "why did you do this when you had pretty nurses waiting here to help you with that." He just smiled and said he was happy that we were here for him now.

The nurses found another elderly woman (85 years old) who was incontinent, needed her clothes changed and a bath. She had a grandson here, but he could not be found. SWIFT found a placement for her in a Board and Care facility that day but could not take her out of the Dome because of the layers of bureaucracy here. She needed to be cleared by an MD, and discharged by the Command Center. An RN for SWIFT moved some mountains and made it happen.

More later

Thursday, September 08, 2005

California Nurses Assn RN's Volunteer at the Astrodome

There were 12 Registered Nurses who arrived Wed. Sept 8th to volunteer at the Houston Astrodome from California. Each of us will post our story and some pictures of our experience. More to come....
posted by Carole Rogers, RN

Wed. Just arriving in Houston

Wednesday, Sept. 7: They spotted me in Tuscon because I was wearing my "San Leandro Hospital" T-shirt. "Oh, another crazy RN?" (thumbs up) We chatted awhile until our flight to Houston boarded. All of us were happy to hear that CNA was putting us up at the Holiday Inn next to the Houston Astrodome. At the end of the night there were 12 CNA nurses here...We had expected to be sleeping on Army cots, just like the evacuees we see on TV and on the news net. We met Betty Woods our CNA "point person" who is also a volunteer RN and who was decribed as a "take charge" person. Yep, got us all from the airport, handled all problems with rooms, and made an appointment Barbara Reece at the Astrodome that evening at 7 pm. While waiting in the lobby for our hotel shuttle to take us to the "Dome" (it is in visual distance but a 20 minute walk we were told) we met Tina and Brian Oakes - both nurses and a married couple from Colton, CA - working for Arrowhead Regional Hospital (San Bernadino County.) What an amazing couple; they drove to Houston from their home in 24 hours, spent the night in the parking lot and then went to work. This was five days before we arrived! It is evident that their powers of organization have had a major effect on the success of the mission to provide health care services to over 20,000 "evacuees" in Houston. They worked the on thefirst line of fire: triage - solving problems - using their skills to suggest solutions to the powers that be to streamline the operation. Their first report to us in the lobby of the hotel was chilling: They processed 150 people an HOUR for the first few days of their arrival! They described the major problems we would be facing: people with diabetes who were walking in dirty diseased water and their feet/lower extremities had lacerations; people with major medical problems (diabetes, high blood pressure, dialysis, cardiac diseases, etc.) and no medical help for 7 days. People would show up from the buses being unloaded from the Superdome in New Orleans and physically carried to Triage for medical care...
They also described the havoc in trying to provide medical care in a disaster situation, saying they were providing care while the "curtains" in the medical clinic were being put up. (See pictures.)
The photo album for our first day is located at this link: (have not figured out how to make this a real link so you must cut and paste into your address:
(drag and highlight this address with your mouse, Control C to copy, control V to insert into your browser address.) It will be updated with comments as the days go forward.

That's all folks, 5:45 comes mighty early when you are a Californian. Check back soon

8:21 PM