Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina: A Physician's Report from The Middle of New Orleans

This e-mail just came in from Gregory Henderson, a physician. As nearly as we can tell, Dr. Henderson is an academician, a pathologist who specializes in in cancers of the female reproductive tract and who is affiliated with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the Department of Pathology at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Coastal Area Health Education Center, Wilmington, NC. We gather from those facts, and from his e-mail below, that Dr. Henderson found himself in New Orleans with his family, perhaps attending a medical conference. When Katrina got close, he sent his family away to safety and remained behind and wound up in the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton Hotel, helping set up a makeshift hospital. Thus an academic pathologist, a man who mostly studies slides and tissue specimens and rarely sees patients personally, has put himself forward to render heroic service in the middle of the greatest natural disaster in the history of the United States. Sounds like a movie script, doesn't it? But it's apparently true.

Here's Dr. Henderson's e-mail:

From: Gregory S. Henderson MD, PhD
Date: Tue, 30 Aug 2005 20:21:55 -0500
Subject: Re: thoughts and prayers

Thanks to all of you who have sent your notes of concern and your prayers. I am writing this note on Tuesday at 2PM . I wanted to update all of you as to the situation here. I don't know how much information you are getting but I am certain it is more than we are getting. Be advised that almost everything I am telling you is from direct observation or rumor from reasonable sources. They are allowing limited internet access, so I hope to send this dispatch today.

Personally, my family and I are fine. My family is safe in Jackson, MS, and I am now a temporary resident of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New Orleans. I figured if it was my time to go, I wanted to go in a place with a good wine list. In addition, this hotel is in a very old building on Canal Street that could and did sustain little damage. Many of the other hotels sustained significant loss of windows, and we expect that many of the guests may be evacuated here.

Things were obviously bad yesterday, but they are much worse today. Overnight the water arrived. Now Canal Street (true to its origins) is indeed a canal. The first floor of all downtown buildings is underwater. I have heard that Charity Hospital and Tulane are limited in their ability to care for patients because of water. Ochsner is the only hospital that remains fully functional. However, I spoke with them today and they too are on generator and losing food and water fast. The city now has no clean water, no sewerage system, no electricity, and no real communications. Bodies are still being recovered floating in the floods. We are worried about a cholera epidemic. Even the police are without effective communications. We have a group of armed police here with us at the hotel that are admirably trying to exert some local law enforcement. This is tough because looting is now rampant. Most of it is not malicious looting. These are poor and desperate people with no housing and no medical care and no food or water trying to take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the people are armed and dangerous. We hear gunshots frequently. Most of Canal street is occupied by armed looters who have a low threshold for discharging their weapons. We hear gunshots frequently. The looters are using makeshift boats made of pieces of styrofoam to access. We are still waiting for a significant national guard presence.

The health care situation here has dramatically worsened overnight. Many people in the hotel are elderly and small children. Many other guests have unusual diseases. We have commandered the world famous French Quarter Bar to turn into an makeshift clinic. There is a team of about 7 doctors and PA and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be the major medical facility in the central business district and French Quarter.

Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreens on Canal under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and full of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into gargace bags and removed them. All under police excort. The looters had to be held back at gun point.

In all we are faring well. We have set up a hospital in the the French Qarter bar in the hotel, and will start admitting patients today. We are anticipating to dealing with multiple medical problems, medications and and acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major problems. Food and water shortages are iminent.

The biggest question to all of us is where is the national guard. We hear jet fignters and helicopters, but no real armed presence, and hence the rampant looting. There is no Red Cross and no salvation army.

In a sort of cliche way, this is an edifying experience. Once is rapidly focused away from the transient and material to the bare necessities of life. It has been challenging to me to learn how to be a primary care phyisican. We are under martial law so return to our homes is impossible. I don't know how long it will be and this is my greatest fear. Despite it all, this is a soul edifying experience. The greatest pain is to think about the loss. And how long the rebuild will [take]. And the horror of so many dead people .

PLEASE SEND THIS DISPATCH TO ALL YOU THINK MAY BE INTERSTED IN A DISPATCH From the front. I will send more according to your interest. Hopefully their collective prayers will be answered. By the way suture packs, sterile gloves and stethoscopes will be needed as the Ritz turns into a MASH.

Greg Henderson
(Welcome, InstaPundit readers! Go here to browse around some more.)

UPDATE: Dr. Henderson has given us an update. He needs help. Read about it here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure this is legit? Sounds and looks fishy to me. 

Posted by Anonymous

Thursday, September 01, 2005 2:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like Dr. H could be a pathologist in North Carolina. Vacationing in NOLA?

There was the comment "It has been challenging to me to learn how to be a primary care phyisican." 

Posted by Phil

Thursday, September 01, 2005 2:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The locations of the R-C and the Walgreens he's cited are correct. I spoke to several friends who said that many of the people who didn't evacuate in time went to the hotels near the Quarter because the ground is higher there. . . I'm inclined to believe him. 

Posted by Sarah

Thursday, September 01, 2005 2:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I received the e-mail as well, third-hand, which included the following:

Below is the first communication we've had from a dear family friend who lives in New Orleans. When the threat of Katrina was realized, he sent his wife and two young girls to Jackson, MS where his parents live.. but he stayed behind.

He is a pathologist and had checked into the Ritz for a medical convention -- which presumably would be safe. That's where he remains.

Thought you'd find his reports from the front line interesting.

For what it's worth. Also note that this was written on Tuesday, so who knows how bad it is now... 

Posted by andy

Thursday, September 01, 2005 5:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I know Dr. Henderson, as I am nearly certain that he was a medical school classmate of mine. Since he went into the PhD program, we did not graduate together, but we spent the first two years of med school together, and there are several things about him that I remember which ring true.

First, he went to Tulane as an undergraduate, so he has ties to New Orleans. Second, he was a wine connoisseur who started a wine-tasting club (he mentions the good wine list at the hotel). Third, I am nearly certain that he went into pathology (as did I), explaining why he would have to learn to be a primary care physician on the fly.

I commend Greg for his actions, and want to know if there is any way of establishing contact with him to learn what the need is for medical professionals and supplies. I would like to help if I can.

Paul D
Vanderbilt Medical School Class of '89 

Posted by Paul D

Thursday, September 01, 2005 5:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that is the Greg Henderson who was my classmate for the first two years of medical school. He is on Fox News now, asking for any trained medical personnel (EMT, PA, RN, LPN, MD, etc) to arrive downtown to the Convention Center area to assist with triage of these people. Some will not be well enough to be evacuated before being treated and need immediate attention; others can be sent on their way once transportation is available.

Good for Greg. And although this might be lost on non-physicians, for a guy who practices pathology to have taken a lead role as he has is astounding. 

Posted by Paul D

Saturday, September 03, 2005 8:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We live in Atlanta, spared by Katrina. I am sending this plea to everyone that I know that can offer assistance. We all live in the United States- we can accomplish anything. My best to Dr. Henderson and those in New Orleans.  

Posted by Marcie

Monday, September 05, 2005 7:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Gregory Henderson is my son and to set the record straigt he was a practicing pathologist at New Hanover Regional Medcal Center in Wilmington, NC. He moved to New Orleans in August to take a position as pathologist with Ochsner Foundation Hospital. He went to the Ritz Carlton on 8/26 for a planning retreat sponsored by Ochsner. This retreat ended at noon on 8/27 but he made arrangements with the hotel to return on 8/28 to ride-out the storm. My wife and I were in New Orleans and we evacuated his wife and two young daughters back to Jackson, MS. We have been in periodic contact with him and the information on the internet posted by him and the news media that have been covering the story is factual. I would hope that JT would post his name and address so that one might respond to his scurrilous and libelous comments.

Julian C. Henderson, MD
Father of a true hero 

Posted by Julian C. Henderson, MD

Thursday, September 08, 2005 11:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a British journalist wanting to get in contact with Dr. Greg Henderson.

Please, do you have any contact details or leads.


James Leigh 

Posted by James Leigh

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear James Leigh: Please contact me by using the "e-mail me!" link just above my photo to the left. I do not want to post Dr. Henderson's e-mail address onthe internet, so I will need to send it to you directly. 

Posted by The Hedgehog

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 12:34:00 PM  
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