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Norman Regional Moore’s Doctors Provide Hurricane Harvey Relief in Texas

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Hearts for Healing

Dr. Robin Mantooth understands catastrophe.

As Medical Director of Norman Regional Moore’s Emergency Department when the 2013 tornado hit the previous Moore facility, and as a caring Christian who’s done medical mission trips across the globe, Mantooth has demonstrated her desire to serve wherever she is needed.

This week, it’s Houston.

“We flew in by helicopter,” Mantooth said via phone on Wednesday. “It’s pretty devastating, but everyone said yesterday was the worst, and the waters started receding yesterday around noon so the roads are definitely improved.”

As accessability to hospitals improved on Wednesday, Mantooth said they became swamped with patients and every emergency department was overwhelmed.

Mantooth and two other Norman emergency physicians, Dr. Marcia Hoos-Reinke and Dr. Steven Roberts, are part of a team of eight flown in by Team Health to provide relief for doctors who’ve been on-duty four days straight dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

“We arrived yesterday,” Mantooth said. “We were the first plane to land at Houston’s Hobby Airport since it’s been closed. It’s normally a very busy airport, but there was no one to be seen. They had moved all the planes.”

The Team Health plane carrying eight doctors landed in Houston around 2 p.m. on Tuesday and were shuttled to one of the downtown hospitals where they were then divided into teams and flown by helicopter to various hospitals.

“We were working within an hour of arriving,” Mantooth said. “It was very well organized.”

Hoos-Reinke and Roberts were assigned to a Memorial Hermann hospital in a heavily flooded area, while Mantooth and a doctor from Austin they’d picked up along the way were taken to Memorial Hermann Pearland hospital. Memorial Hermann is largest not-for-profit health system in Southeast Texas and has several hospitals in Houston.

On scene at the hospital, Mantooth learned everything had been moved to the third floor because of flooding concerns, but the water started to recede before patients had to be moved.

“What they tell me is they had several hospitals close in Houston,” Mantooth said. “Once the hospital is flooded, even if you get the water out, the system is contaminated so it can take two months to reopen.”

Getting to a hospital for help is difficult enough, she said, but leaving the hospital is even more challenging.

“People can get here by ambulance and armored vehicles — the police are using their armored SWAT vehicles to be able to bring people in,” Mantooth said. “After the patients get here, they can’t leave. There are people who are discharged and can’t leave.”

While transportation is part of the challenge for patients who are ready to leave, the other problem is where to send people whose homes have flooded. Some patients are being dropped off at the hospital by boat, she said, and the skies are full of helicopters.

“We had a hard time getting the air evac helicopter to take us because there were so many Army and Coast Guard helicopters bringing patients in that they were just fishing out of the water,” she said. “These Black Hawks would just come in with five and six patients each and drop them off.”

Mantooth said pilots are working constantly and haven’t gone home while hospital employees have been living at the hospital.

“These people — security, housekeeping, nurses, doctors — they have been working for four days and have not left,” Mantooth said. “There are air mattresses — they’re just putting people up anywhere they can find a corner.”

She’s been sleeping in the recovery room on a cot with curtains around the cot and surgeries going on around her.

“Everyone here is universally pleasant and happy and grateful to have the hospital as a place to be,” she said.

Many of the hospital employees don’t have homes to go back to or their families have evacuated, she said, and the patients are particularly thankful for the care they’re receiving.

Mantooth said there are so many stories of courage and dedication within the Houston medical community, like the doctor who said he could come to work if someone could pick him up about a mile from his home. He planned to swim out and then walk to the meeting spot.

Even those with a short commute are finding it hard to get around.

“A doctor I’m working with right now, it took him an hour and a half,” she said.

The hospital is serving a combination of regular patients and hurricane injuries.

“Most of it seems like regular patients, but they’ve waited longer than usual to come in,” Mantooth said. “All of the dialysis centers were closed, so they’re coming to the hospital for dialysis. They’ll have 10 or 15 people here every day lining up for dialysis.”

People are also coming to get medications because pharmacies are closed.

In one case, a child who would normally be admitted to the children’s hospital had to stay in the emergency ward, so emergency physicians are dealing with care beyond their norm.

“Everybody is stepping up and doing an amazing job,”she said.

Mantooth’s group will stay in Houston until Friday when Team Health will send in another group to relieve them.

“Thanks for the people who stepped up to cover our shifts in Norman so that we could come here. They’re doing extra work as well,” she said. “I just talked to Shane Cohea, security chief in Norman. They’re getting ready to send a food truck to help feed the first responders. They hugged me when I told them Norman hospital wanted to send some food down. It’s a great group of people down here. They’ve just been working nonstop.”

Source: The Norman Transcript