Sep 13, 2008

Voices of Ike - Caring

11:01 pm, Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008
Houston cardiologist A. Tomas Garcia, MD

Right now, things are pretty bad in the city. No power in vast parts. The hospital (West Houston Medical Center) has maintained power with emergency generators; but no AC, which has been tough on the patients and staff.

Water is now a problem. We are being careful to drink only bottled water for now. We are labeling cups and bottles to conserve water for drinking. Water for the toilets is another problem. We just went through 6,000 gallons to clean out the lines at 7 pm and have another truck on the way.

Last night was tough. The whole hospital building was moving, and we had some leaks; but no windows broke. Many patients were scared, but the staff really came through. We had the usual deliveries and c-sections, and the usual admissions. Unfortunately, many physicians didn't anticipate the tree damage to home, vehicles, and roads, and couldn't make it in.

We had a meeting early this morning and with cooperation of all 14 or so doctors divided the 170 patients among ourselves. Our concern was that there might be a sick patient that needed attention, and with docs unable to round we might have a critical situation get worse. It happened to me. One of the patients i was rounding on had taken a turn for the worse, he had sickle cell crisis with a hemoglobin of 4.0, with fever, tachypnea and tachycardia. We were able to transfer him immediately to telemetry and with a full court pressure turned the corner.

I labeled all my notes as "Hurricane Ike Physician On-Call" for the rounding on other physicians' patients. For the patients that were transferred from the east side, BayShore, (they had raw sewage flood their hospital as I understand), I wrote a full H&P. Everyone pitched in; there were physicians helping with simple things such as moving patients, passing on communication from administration to the staff, to encouraging everyone to use the stairs whenever possible.

Things went rather smoothly compared to "Rita." With "Rita," we had about 1,000 people, family, extended family, friends in the hospital and professional building. Only added to the confusion and work efforts for our doctors and nurses. This time the requirements were more strict; staff and "immediate" family only. I think the total was about 600 or so. Serving food was a bit of a challenge; with these numbers and limited seating in the cafeteria, the staff, docs and family members lined up and waited for the folks ahead to decide to sit and eat or move to another area of the hospital to eat. It really worked out well; and the food was hot and good. with so much to do it was a relief to not have to worry with feeding yourself.

Todd Caliva was excellent as our CEO of our hospital; I can't say enough of how important it is to maintain a certain calm with such a challenge. With his leadership, our doctors were able to perform optimally and efficiently.

I checked the house(I live across the street): no physical damage, one tree down; my son and i were able to get it back up and secure it. Still no power or water there; so I'm back at the hospital. There are still a group of us available for any emergencies that will most certainly start coming in.

The last 3 days have been very challenging and I'm quite certain that the rest of the week will offer its future obstacles. But the preparation we did for the week before led to our success here in the hospital. By taking the common sense steps to prepare for such an incredible storm led to our success.

This is my first entry after the storm because I couldn't get on line.

I'm really beat. To bed. More later.

Tom

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