Sep. 11th, 2005

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It has been a week since I left home to come here, and have been working in the shelter for six days. It has been nothing like what I expected, and indeed, nothing like most anyone expected. Most of the Red Cross workers agree on one thing--this is a disaster unlike any other.

In a normal disaster, we would have set up a table and provide first aid to the clients, and referred them out to community resources for any other care they needed. We would follow protocols that told us what to do. One of the first things we did in this disaster was throw the protocols book out the window.

Our shelter has about 600 people, all from the New Orleans area. They have lost everything except what they were able to take with them. All the things we take for granted are now completely out of reach to these people. Need to see a doctor to get a prescription refill? Hard to do when the doctor has evacuated to Houston, his clinic is a pile of two-by-fours, and the pharmacy is under 12 feet of water.

This is one of the needs we try and meet. My parter Robin, a nurse from Colorado, arrived here the day after the storm and set up a clinic with not much more than a bag of bandages and a tube of antibiotic ointment, met by two busloads of evacuees with special medical needs. By the time I arrived, she had a fully functioning clinic in place, with a crude pharmacy and a collection of volunteer doctors from various places, treating over 40 patients a day.

I have to go--more later.
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