I am a psychiatrist and was working in Houston during Katrina and Rita. I remember going to the local Salvation army to help. Very few doctors were there. I was one of the first, largely because my father was a regular volunteer and called me when he saw the need. The center where I volunteered was in a suburb of Houston, Pasadena, and only a few blocks from the local hospital. Despite this, the center was poorly equiped with medical support. Two nurses, myself, and a cardiologist were the only medical team that showed up. The Salvation Army staff was overwhelmed and didn\'t know where to send people. Many people were on medications, but had to leave them behind. I found myself writing prescriptions for medications i had not prescribed in years and had not studied since medical school. It was unnerving, but the need was there and no one else was there to do it. People also asked about physical symptoms and wanted help with these. Again, I felt at a loss. We had no records, no medical textbooks or medication books to reference, very little equipment, but masses of people. Most people were able to qoute the names of their medicines and as long as I recognized it as something that would not likely be used in a dangerous manner, and was a life saving medication, I prescribed it. Several local pharmacies donated medications that must of totaled in the thousands of dollars. They had no way to verify insurance. \r\n\r\nI also did a lot of listening. I remember one woman who was separated from all her family. The staff told me she had been sitting in a dazed state for more than a day. I counselled her. She had left all the numbers of her relatives and their cell phones in her house when it flooded. She remembered one relative\'s name who lived in New York, but not his number. She thought he might be a central contact for her family. I tried to contact him for her with my cell phone, but the operator refused to assist due to laws that prohibited the revealing of confidential information. I explained the situation and asked her to just call and leave a message for him to call me. (I understood the risk for her that I could be lying and trying to get his personal information to cause financial harm - e.g. identity theft, or other problems.) She still refused and cited company policy. The woman remained in a state of despair. Fortunately, I ran into her again a few days later, she had managed to make phone contact with most of the missing members of her family and they were safe in other locations of the country. \r\n\r\nI not only worked at this location, but also at the Alamodome. The latter location was set up by the local community health agencies several days later and was much more organized. I recall looking at the mattresses in both locations and not being able to believe how closely packed each of these facilities were. Mattresses were almost overlapping, side by side, in rows that stretched from wall to wall. There was barely enough room for a skinny person to walk between the rows. Entire families might have to share a mattress. Everything they owned was on the mattress. There was no security. I realized they did not know who their \"neighbors\" were and anyone could take their belongings if they were left alone for a second, and it would be impossible to tell, in the mass of people, who had done it. At the Salvation Army location, their was only one bathroom for everyone to share. Although their were more facilities at the Astrodome, they were woefully inadequate for the masses. \r\n\r\nI also remember the volunteer effort was tremendous. A friend of mine went to volunteer and was turned away because they had more than they could manage/organize. In some cases, only volunteers affiliated with certain organizations were allowed to assist. \r\n\r\nI was also a doctor during Rita and worked at a community mental health clinic. Only a handful stayed as part of the emergency response. I recall going into the clinic and the road in was sparse. I made the fastest time to work ever. At work, there was a mass of people, but only two physicians and one nurse. We worked at record speed to provide prescriptions for people so they could have them when they evacuated. Most of the pharmacies, however, were closed and many patients sought us to help, but we were limited. It was difficult to explain to many of these people who had limited ability to comprehend the situation and limited support available to help them. I recall it took over seven hours to drive the 30 miles home. \r\n\r\n I remember seeing a fair skinned man in the back of a truck who was badly sunburned and had no shade. I also recall families with little children sitting for hours in the intense Texas heat. A teenager, who lived close to my parents, had to stop her truck to administer CPR to the driver of the car in front of her. I tried to take all the back routes, but even they were packed. The day before, I had experienced the same thing, and did not arrive to the day care to pick up my kids until two hours after the normal closing. The cell phone lines were constantly busy and I could not get through to the day care staff. I was so worried about what would happen to the kids. I\'d heard stories, (not from this day care, about others) of workers calling CPS or finding other places to take children when their parents were late picking them up. That day, I had no way to know it would take over 6 hours to get home instead of the usual 45 minutes. The following day, I arranged care with a family member who planned to stay behind with me. \r\n\r\nFortunately, we were mostly unscathed. We lost one tree - the only one in the neighborhood - and were without power for 24 hours. We had stocked up on food and water for a long time and were prepared to last for at least a week without supplies, but we only had problems for 48 hours. Some restaurants, that had power were open the next day and word spread fast. They had enormous waiting lines. We felt very lucky.



“[Untitled],” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed April 13, 2024, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/27879.