Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"The power of collective human love:" The Latest Report from Gregory Henderson, M.D., On-site in New Orleans

I received the following my e-mail this morning. It shows Dr. Henderson's progress in providing medical care to Katrina's victims in New Orleans. (Note: It appears my earlier posts were in error when they concluded that Dr. Henderson had been visiting New Orleans when the hurricane struck. From the message below it appears that he was and remains New Orleans-based.)

An Update on the situation in New Orleans from Gregory S. Henderson, MD, PhD

To everyone all over the world who has read my e-mails, sent your prayers and your help. I am sorry that I haven't been able to reply to all of you acknowledging your e-mails and updating you with many details, but there has been so much to do. However, through all of this I didn¦t want the details of what has occurred day to day to be lost. Because to me the way in which each of you have responded to the situation I told you about is about the most clear example of what the power of collective human love can create in this world. You should all remember what happen this week, what is still happening now, and how all of you helped to turn it around. Since I obviously haven't had much time for writing about what has gone on, I asked a favor of Ms. Nancy Zeleniak, who works for PPD International in Raleigh, North Carolina if she would summarize what all has happened since September 3, the day of the evacuation of the convention center. Nancy and her company were so very instrumental in helping get the attention and care that these people needed, and spent a huge amount of time on the phone connecting the right people with the right people until it finally all started to come together. So, she really deserves to tell the tale. Finally, before you read Nancy's summary below, know that my family and I are still safe. I am now back at Ochsner Clinic Foundation Hospital trying to continue my efforts from here. In the care that Ochsner has given to patients ceaselessly throughout the tragedy, in the help with supplies and equipment while I was alone in the field, and in their construction of a relief effort they have proven to me that I did indeed decide to join the best medical center in the country. This e-mail has an attachment from Ochsner which describes ways in which you can contribute help to the people of this battered and beleaguered, but not defeated, city. Nancy's summary follows. Please pass it on all over the world.

Since the time of the preceding e-mail of 3 Sept:

  • The convention center was evacuated.
  • The medical supplies sent by PPD filled two full buses were used by Dr Henderson and the National Guard within a few hours of delivery. Louisiana State Senator Rob Marionneaux is to thank for helping get the supplies from Baton Rouge into the hands of Dr Henderson. He arranged the ground transport and police escort. We also thank the bus drivers, Beth Carbo and Michele Drevecky. More supplies will be needed by medical personnel working throughout the disaster areas.
  • Dr Henderson determined it would be better to evacuate those requiring dialysis versus bringing in mobile units under the current conditions.
  • Nancy Zeleniak, global head of communications for PPD, contacted Dr Henderson's former colleague, Dr Michael Moulton, an ER physician at New Hanover Regional in Wilmington, NC, to gain advice on obtaining medical staff for the MASH. Dr Moulton brought in Dr Bob Seligson, CEO for the NC Medical Society. The team tapped into Dr Paul Jones in the office of the soon-to-be chief medical officer for National Homeland Security, who was not to start his job until 6 Sept. for additional insight. . . . This team worked together and through connections and communications over a couple days, a NorthWest Medical Team already headed to the disaster area was contacted to help with Dr Henderson's MASH.

E-mail excerpt from Dr Henderson to share with others:
Subject: Re: New Orleans Under Siege
Date: Sun, 04 Sep 2005 11:24 -0200
From: "Gregory S. Henderson, MD, PhD"

I am still in New Orleans. I was out of commission for a few hours overnight. I didn't realize how dehydrated and hypoglycemic I was until I collapsed at the Sheraton last night. My close colleagues in this effort, the New Orleans police got an ER doc that I met up with during the evacuation efforts of the convention center to come by and run a few bags of fluid in me and bring me to Ochsner where I got some sleep. I am about to head back out into the field - I will remember to drink more this time.

Editorial: As of Sun., 4 Sept.: After staying overnight Saturday in the hospital, Dr. Henderson was back in full throttle. He began working with the 72nd Military Police Company, an 82nd Airborne Company and the NorthWest Medical Team to set up a much needed M.A.S.H. in a new location on Convention Center Boulevard in a parking lot in front of Hall H of the New Orleans convention center. This location offers space to expand the clinic and is accessible to current victims still in the city and those being brought in by police, ambulance and neighbors from remote areas for treatment and evacuation. The NorthWest Medical Team is highly experienced in providing medical care in disaster areas. The 82nd Airborne under the direction of Lt Col Metcalf is providing medics for screening patients, security and evacuation of severe cases through helicopters. The 72nd Military Police Company has since been reassigned to another need but Sgt John Sampson and Capt Troy Armstrong were incredibly helpful during the operation.

The NorthWest Medical Team led by Dr. Bill Essig and Dr. Dan Diamond came into the site late Sunday evening. They worked with Dr. Henderson through the night and into early morning hours to clean up trash and debris left from the convention center evacuation to make it possible to set up a medical base. As of Monday morning, Dr. Henderson says they were up and running with 4 MDs and 3 RNs. The state police emergency center was informed of the MASH and its capabilities and they also helped communicate to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and EOP who could network the information to law enforcement around the region and functioning hospitals within the evacuation zone. Other medical professionals joined the MASH so that at the end of the day, six MDs and 4 RNs were effectively working together and they had triaged and treated almost 175 patients that day, evacuating the severe cases.

Thank you for the outpouring of support from all of his fellow medical professionals. As medical staff can only give so much time away from their work, the need for additional staff will be ongoing for quite some time. As of today, there are sufficient qualified professionals in the queue to work at this MASH unit; however, if you¡¦re interested in helping with similar efforts, you can apply through the NorthWest Medical Team ( who is helping coordinate volunteers. They'll help you get registered and placed in an area of need. Alternatively, you can register through the U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services (HHS) for short to long term assignments (min. 14 days - max. 30 days) via (click on Hurricane Katrina link) or call +866 528 6334. If you¡¦re not certified to practice in Louisiana, you need to get registered. You'll also want to linked with a group with authority to be directed to a location with medical needs; otherwise, you can waste much time traveling around without putting your skills to work.

Thanks to all of you offering to ship supplies. What a difference in four days because currently, the MASH is adequately stocked. The shipment from PPD helped a couple days ago but NorthWest Medical Team brought resources and the 82nd Airborne is tapping its sources to help replenish supplies as needed. However, all medical teams in the disaster areas are working with an understanding that these are long term operations and supplies will need to be continually replenished. As MASH units need to stay flexible to relocate to meet the needs of victims and patients, it is better to not ship large quantities of materials directly to the sites at this time. The NorthWest Medical Team takes supplies from companies in their warehouse and directs them overnight to sites as needed. Please see their Web site for donating. For individual and group donors, it would be best to donate money to organizations to use for buying supplies.

Dr. Henderson is extremely grateful for all of the well wishes, prayers and generous offers of supplies and volunteer services from experienced medical professionals. Although he and his colleagues have the difficult job of being on the front lines, the overwhelming outpouring of support from so many bolsters the spirits and helps as they provide care for and save lives of our neighbors caught in this horrific disaster.

I write with kindest regards on behalf of Dr. Henderson,


UPDATE: Apparently some people have questioned the veracity of the Dr. Henderson saga, to the point that has become involved. Guess what? Snopes says the story is . . . true!

For other posts and additional information on Dr. Henderson's heroism in New Orleans, go here, here and here.


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