Down Under

Sep 4, 2005 by

A dispatch only just now received…

Aug. 31, 2005

This is a dispatch from New Orleans from Dr. Greg Henderson, a pathologist
who recently moved from Wilmington:

Thanks to all of you who have sent your notes of concern and your prayers.
I am writing this note on Tuesday at 2 p.m.. 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, Miss.,
and I am now a temporary resident of the Ritz Carleton 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 is 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. There are (Infectious Disease) physicians in at this
hotel attending an HIV confection. We have commandeered the world famous
French Quarter Bar to turn into an makeshift clinic. There is a team of
about seven doctors and PAs and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be
the major medical facility in the central business district and French

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 garbage bags and removed them. All under police
escort. The looters had to be held back at gunpoint. After a dose of
prophylactic Cipro I hope to be fine. In all we are faring well. We have
set up a hospital in the French Quarter bar in the hotel, and will start
admitting patients today. Many will be from the hotel, but many will not. We
are anticipating dealing with multiple medical problems, medications and
acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major
problems. Food and water shortages are imminent.

The biggest question to all of us is where is the National Guard. We hear
jet fighters 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 cliché way, this is an edifying experience. One 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
physician. 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

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 M.A.S.H.

Greg Henderson

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