Friday, September 16, 2005

Hemant Vankawala, MD: triage at the airport

Via Nick of "blogborygmi," a report from a doctor that has been "making the rounds on EM residency lists":

we did not practice medicine

there was nothing sexy or glamerous or routine about what we did we moved hundreds of patients an hour, thousands of patients a day off the flight line and into the terminal and baggage area patients were loaded onto baggage carts and trucked to the baggage area, like, well, baggage. and there was no time to talk, no time to cry, no time to think, because they kept on comming. our only salvation was when the beurocratic washington machine was able to ramp up and stream line the exodus of patients out of here

our team work a couple of shifts in the medcal tent as well. imagine people so despeate, so sick, so like the 5-10 "true" emergencies you may get on a shift comming through the door non stop that is all that you take care of. no imagine having not beds, no O2, no nothing except some nitro, aspirin and all the good intentions in the world. we did everything from delivering babies to simply providing morphine and a blanket to septic and critical patients and allowing them to die.

during the days that it took for that exodue to occur, we filled the airport to its bursting point. there was a time when there were 16,000 angry, tired, frustrated people here, there were stabbings, rapes, and people on the verge of mobbing. the flight line, lined with 2 parallel rows of dauphins, sea kings, hueys, chinooks and every other kind of helocopter imanigable, was a dangerous place. but we were much more frightened when ever we entered the sea of displaced humanity that had filled every nook and cranny of the airport. only now that the thousands of survivors had been evacuated, and the floors soaked in bleach, the putrid air allowed to exchange for fresh, the number or soldiers allowed to outnumber the patients, that we feel safe

i have meet so many people while down here. people who were at ground zero at 9-11, people who have done tusanmi relief, tours in iraq and every one of them has said this is the worst thing they have ever seen. its unaminous and these are some battle worn veterans of every kind of disaster you can imagine. [...]

many of the sickest simply died while here at the airport, many have been stressed beyond measure and will die shortly even though they were evacuated. if you are not medcial then go the shelters, hold hands, give hugs and prayers. if nothing else it will remind you how much you have and how grateful we all should be. these people have nothing. not only have they lost their material posessions and homes, many have lost their children, spouses, parents, arms, legs, vision, everything that is important.

talk to these survivors, hear their stories and what they have been through, look into their eyes

you will never think of america the same way
you will never look at your family the same way
you will never look at your home the same way
and i promise it will forever change the way you practice medicine

Nick notes that Dr. Vankawala has spoken to the press about his experiences.


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