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KaBar2

The Calm Before The Storm--Rita Approaches Houston

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As everybody who watches TV can see, just about the entire city of Houston seems to be evacuating north to central and west Texas. My sister's family left yesterday mid-day, and it took them nine hours to go a little over fifty miles. The freeways are all but impassable. Gasoline is pretty much impossible to obtain at any price today. Local news reports that there are only five gasoline retailers in the city of Houston still open at 4:00 p.m. Thursday. Galveston is evacuated, as well as most of the smaller coastal cities between Houston and the coast (Alvin, Arcola, Iowa Colony, etc.)

 

My family is safely well away from the area. My wife is in Washington State and my daughter with her husband's family in San Antonio. Since there's nobody here but me and the dogs and the cat, I'm going in to work, at the hospital. Starting tomorrow 0700 they are paying double-time, and we will be paid straight through the crisis. In my case, that works out to a little over $50 an hour.

 

We have evacuated some of our contract patients back to Juvenile Detention, and consolidated two adolescent units into one.

 

 

Our hospital is close to Houston's Texas Medical Center, which was not-too-wisely sited very near to a major bayou---Braes Bayou, which is connected to Galveston Bay about five miles east of the TMC. If Rita pushes a storm surge of twenty feet into Galveston Bay, as predicted, we could wind up with seawater on our first floor, if the surge reverses the flow up Braes Bayou, Buffalo Bayou and White Oak Bayou and into the Downtown, Midtown and Medical Center corridor. My biggest concern, actually, is that my pick-up truck might get flooded out in the hospital parking lot.

 

I took several cases of water, sleeping bag, changes of clothes in an ALICE pack, combat boots, rubber boots, a U.S. Navy hospital corpsman's medic bag (in the Marine Corps, this is what the corpsmen carry when they accompany Marines into combat,) a bunch of extra batteries, etc. in with me today. I've got eighteen patients who cannot be discharged and who cannot be evacuated. So I'm going to work. One of my new kids, from the other adolescent unit, is a cutter who is so agitated about Rita that she keeps trying to tear open the stitches on her wrists and forearms, so we are keeping her "snowed" (sedated) on Thorazine, Benadryl and Ativan. She slept most of my shift. Imagine trying to deal with her tearing open her stitches in the middle of a Force Five hurricane. No thanks. It's in her best interests to keep her zonked out, and as long as the doctors agree, that's how she's going to be.

 

All my patients are low-income kids who have very little life experience outside Houston's ghettos. They talk all bad ass about gang banging, etc., but they are scared shitless about Rita. We are having to provide them with constant reassurrance. It's actually very touching. Underneath all that tough-guy bullshit they are just kids who are a long way from home and really, REALLY wish they could go home to Mom.

 

Last night, we had a medical emergency in the Admitting Area of the hospital. Some psychiatric patients who were Louisiana evacuees from University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston were re-evacuated from UTMB to our hospital in Houston. They came on a school bus, with no air conditioning. One of them was a young woman only 26 years old who had a medical condition (unbeknownst to us) called DVT, or "Deep Vein Thrombosis." This is an extremely dangerous condition--it means a blood clot in the veins of the leg. The trip to Houston took six hours because of the thousands and thousands of evacuees from Galveston on the freeway. (It's normally a one-hour drive, maybe less.)

 

She was sitting down (which causes blood to pool in the legs) for SIX HOURS. When they got to Houston, and she stood up, she "threw a clot," i.e. a pulmonary embolism, originating from the DVT, and went into cardiac arrest right there on the bus. They got her off the bus and into a wheelchair, and wheeled her into our Admissions Department. The Admissions people freaked out (of course, who wouldn't, she was dying) sounded "Code Blue," and all the RN's and MD's came running. I brought my unit's "crash cart." We performed CPR on her for about fifteen minutes until the 9-1-1 EMT's got there, but she was a goner from the start.

 

It was a very upsetting experience. She was young, way too young to be dying from a DVT. You guys don't understand how fragile life is. She was a smoker, and an alcoholic too, from the looks of things. QUIT SMOKING, RIGHT FUCKING NOW.

 

I've got to pack up my shit and go back to work. Later.

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Yeah...You have my prayers...Let us know that you're all right when it's convenient.

 

It's funny, we were just talking about floods a few weeks ago. I remember that you told us about how you lived in Galveston during a flood and decided to move on the spot.

 

I feel for those folks...Galveston is what, eight feet above sea level? They're gonna get creamed.

 

I'm glad you're the one there right now..those kids need you, man...I hope you do okay. Get back to us with the good word ASAP.

 

Good luck.

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Guest imported_Tesseract

Quite sincerely, best of luck and bravo.

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Originally posted by fermentor666@Sep 23 2005, 02:11 AM

That's righteous that you are helping out at the hospital. You will be needed there.

 

 

word to that.

 

good luck and stay safe!

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I think 12 oz. collectively owes you a beer. Or whatever drink you prefer.

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Damn Kabar...be safe man. What you are doing is awesome and so needed. Hopefully more of us follow this example when shit hits the fan.

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Kabar, you are an awesome dude. Fuck a beer, I think we collectively owe you a trip to the Guinness Brewery (or, as I like to call it, "the happiest place on Earth").

 

 

 

 

I hope your truck doesn't get too fucked, and don't forget your leatherman.

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Well, Rita missed us, and slammed the cities of Beaumont and Port Arthur, as well as Morgan City, Louisiana and all those little smaller places around there.

 

It rained like hell, and we had winds of around 60-65 mph, but it wasn't too bad, Thank God. It certainly could have been a lot worse. We did not sustain any damage at the hospital. They encouraged people to come to work and bring their family members and even their pets! They used the holding cells in the Mental Health Court offices to house dogs and cats in cages. It was kind of wierd, I was walking down the hall and I could hear the muffled noises of barking dogs coming from the MHC rooms. The MHC was closed due to the hurricane, of course.

 

I worked my regular 3-11 shift Thursday, then came home to sleep, as the hurricane was still 300 miles out in the Gulf. I went in early Friday morning. The streets were practically deserted, except for lots of police officers. At the gas stations I passed, most were closed and some boarded up with plywood. Many of the businesses were either already boarded up or in the process of screwing plywood sheets over the windows Friday a.m. Police officers were guarding the two open gas stations I saw, and one cop was carrying a shotgun. They were not fucking around with people who got aggressive. Thursday there were a lot of fights at gas stations. Friday the cops were out in force.

 

The parking lot at the hospital was being guarded by hospital security to keep people from trying to break into cars or siphon gas out of parked cars.

 

Everybody brought in pillows, blankets, extra clothes, etc. The hospital cafeteria fed three meals a day, free to all comers. So employees' families ate for free. They assigned people to beds in empty units. The hospital had discharged as many patients as possible, and sent them home with a week's supply of medications, and either the hospital's vans took them where they wanted to go, or the hospital got them a taxi and a taxi voucher. The only people that stayed were the REALLY ill patients, who were pretty much psychotic and unable to be trusted to care for themselves.

 

We sat the adolescents (and one child, seven) down in a community meeting and explained the situation, told them they could use the phone to call their families to be sure they were okay, and asked everybody to be cooperative. Since we had already sent the six biggest discipline problems back to JDC for the duration of the storm, the rest of the patients behaved very well. Friday night we had our usual "Friday Night Special." We watched videos, stayed up until 10:00 p.m. (they usually go to bed at 9:00 p.m.) and had candy bars, popcorn and a bunch of snacks. We watched TV storm news for fifteen minutes twice during the night, because several hours of that hysterical TV hurricane news B.S. just gets everybody upset.

 

The seven-year-old's mother managed to make it to the hospital and we discharged him.

 

The borderline personality girl from the other unit went off on us, and tried to further tear open the wound in her wrist. She had jammed a paper clip and a staple into her wrist previously, and they did surgery to remove them, and sutured her up (eight stitches). The surgical wound was pretty deep, and she managed to break it open Wednesday, while pretending to be asleep. She has already torn open her stitches twice, and the doctors won't suture her up again. I had to give her a shot of Thorazine, Benadryl and Ativan. She was extremely aggressive, trying to bite us, kick us and so forth, screaming "Leave me the fuck alone!", "Let me go, I'm not worth your time!" and other shit like that. Basically, she feels that she is so worthless and low that she wants to just kill herself. Usually, borderlines have been abused severely as a child, or molested by an adult relative. Borderline Personality Disorder is extremely difficult to treat, and they usually have many, many scars from cutting themselves or burning themselves with cigarettes. They are trying to cover up extreme emotional pain with physical pain.

 

After I gave her the medications, she went to sleep. Thank God.

 

We took turns manning the unit, dividing the available staff up into teams and rotating shifts just like we always do, 7-3, 3-11, 11-7. The idea is to not permit the hurricane to disrupt the routine of the unit any more than is absolutely necessary. Consistency, predictability and order reduce anxiety. Except for the rain outside and the two 15-minute news reports, one could hardly tell anything was wrong.

 

Since the hurricane missed Houston, the regularly scheduled staff began to come to work. My boss sent the emergency crew home this morning at 0700.

 

I'm having a nice glass of Carlo Rossi paisano, and thanking the good Lord that He spared Houston the drenching that Beaumont and Port Arthur are getting.

 

Thank you for all your kind thoughts. All I can say is "Boy, did we LUCK OUT."

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