I’m Home.

I got home Friday evening around 6pm and fell asleep until the next morning.  Moving from day shift to night shift and back to day shift in the course of several days is hard on the body. 🙂

My uniforms are washed and my gear bag and day pack are re-packed and again ready to go.

The hospital where we set up the tents was the closest open hospital to the disaster zone and was designated to receive sick and injured persons from the disaster zone.  It was also expected that people in need would drive in their own cars until they encountered the hospital and “just show up”.

What the team did is called “ED decompression”.  In other words, help the hospital handle a current or expected overload of patients.

It was pretty busy.  We felt we did a good job and more importantly, the patients and their families felt we did a good job.


What I did was

  • Help set up the tents and stock them with medical supplies
  • Set up the 2-way radio equipment, the satellite telephones and help set up the computerized medical records systems.

And after that, repeat the following each day

  • Wake up
  • Shower, etc.
  • Dress
  • Eat
  • Do a quick shift change briefing with my shift replacement.
  • Monitor the electronics stuff to make sure it’s all working.
  • Change the 2-way radio batteries at the middle and end of the 12 hour shift.
  • Do a quick shift change briefing with my shift replacement.
  • Eat.
  • Sleep.

What isn’t mentioned is “drink coffee” as that was an ongoing process.   The only times I wasn’t drinking coffee was when I was showering and sleeping…and I’m not sure about not drinking coffee when I was asleep. 🙂

This routine is similar for all of my deployments and changes only if something breaks or some new requirement is suddenly made.  Then the two of us tech guys get really busy.

The job is fulfilling, rewarding, valuable and very necessary, but it is not often exciting and that’s how it should be.  If it’s exciting too often, then we are not doing our jobs correctly.

 

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Strep Throat

Soon after I got back from my deployment, I ended up with strep throat.  It seems I can’t fly without getting at least a common cold.   Anyway, a trip to the urgent care facility confirmed I had strep throat and I was prescribed some antibiotics.

I’m finally starting to feel better.  It was hard to sleep for several nights and I’m still tired.  At least I no longer have the “I must have cleaned my throat with an acid soaked wire brush” feeling.

I hope that tomorrow I will feel well enough to go running.  I sure do miss my running.

 

Going Home

I’m sitting in the airport in North Carolina and am waiting for my flight home.

My hope, that we would not be needed, came true.  We begin to work when the state is unable to deploy resources of their own to handle their medical needs.  So, when we get involved…things are pretty dire.

We had nothing to do, so we trained..a lot.

“Running codes” (the code blue stuff on TV)…what personal gear we carry with us on a deployment (not as easy as it seems)…patient evaluation and triage (who we treat first when the needs outstrip the supply)…the different triage systems…the ethical considerations surrounding triage…practice doing high quality CPR…completing the necessary travel paperwork…things to consider when we are selecting an area to set up our tents, and  many, many other things.

As I was starting to say before I started on a tangent, North Carolina’s residents appear to have a good disaster medical response system.

Luck has a lot to do with it and I’m sure the state officials would agree– the storm could have been a cat 5 when it made landfall, the storm surge and flooding could have been much worse and far fewer people could have evacuated.

Still, the responders–professional, volunteer and ad hoc (the latter being the true first responders), should be proud of how they handled this “mess”.

Waiting.

Waiting is a normal thing for disaster response.

We are sent in before the storm to wait in an area just outside of the danger zone.  So, we are in place for a few days ahead of time.

Then the storm shows up and we wait.  Then the damage reports and the “we need this” reports come in.  These reports are evaluated by state officials and are prioritized in order of importance.

Road cleaning crews get those assignments, electric utility crews get those assignments, Urban Search and Rescue teams get their assignments.

We get medical assignments….we can take over for a non functioning hospital or, if they are just overloaded, we can help them out with that by providing more medical folks and treatment areas.  We can also provide medical care to an evacutation center if that is overloading a hospital.

Fortunately hospitals are very tough and it takes a lot to damage them.   And, when “pushed”, they can handle a large overload of patients.

So we wait.  And that’s OK.  I hope we just wait until we go home.  While it is exciting to go out and do good things,  this is a time when it is better to NOT be needed.