How I Did It
With a little help from a lot of friends, a doctor turned an abandoned K Mart into a field hospital for victims of Hurricane Katrina
(MONEY Magazine) – BY DR. BILL CASSIDY, 48, BATON ROUGE AS TOLD TO ELLEN MCGIRT
"We had no way to predict what people coming out of New Orleans were going to need. My physician group didn't have emergency preparedness responsibilities, so we made a lot of this stuff up as we went along.
The old K Mart we were to use had been abandoned for about eight years. It was filthy. There was no electricity, no air conditioning and no windows.
We had doctors and nurses step up to design the facility. I asked my friend the insurance guy to be the volunteer coordinator because insurance guys always know everyone. Around 150 people from two churches showed up with mops and brooms to help clean. An electrician got the power up in 24 hours. We created four to five wards holding 30 cots each.
Trucks arrived with $5 million worth of medical supplies, but no packing lists were included. We had I.V. bags but no poles. We had cots but no crash cart. Our volunteers found EKG machines, printers--someone even got a new Honda delivered. Physicians showed up from as far away as Iowa. By the time patients arrived, we had beds, lights, generators, computers and volunteers to play with children, provide transportation and reconnect families.
We saw fatigue, dehydration, emotional trauma and illnesses like diabetes and asthma made worse by the patients' experience. The shelters wouldn't take newborns, so we took mamas and their babies. It was the most amazing thing. We never got the volume we braced for, but we were ready--in 26 hours."