The Hurricane Sandy Disaster—Dr. Morgenstein was There
12/05/2012 | Author: Stuart A. Morgenstein, D.O.
Although our patients and families know us for the work we do as health care providers, several members of the Cleft and Craniofacial Team at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health are involved in service activities outside the hospital setting that have global impact. Our own Dr. Stuart Morgenstein was recently involved in Search and Rescue efforts for Hurricane Sandy victims. Here is his story….
As a member of the Indiana Task Force One/Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, I was deployed to the East Coast for Hurricane Sandy. We are a State and National 80 member Search and Rescue team with FEMA affiliation that is deployed anywhere in the nation as needed for natural and man-made disasters. We receive little notice so we must be ready all the time to deploy within 4-6 hours after activation. We practice and drill constantly throughout the year. Not overall easy on our families.
Each experience is unique and one grows internally after each one. They make you really appreciate what you have and how precious life is.
We were taken to Long Beach, Long Island where the storm came in. A devastating wall of water like a tsunami suddenly arose and did most of the damage. It was shocking to us that more did not drown. Fortunately many had left.
Our primary mission during Sandy was to search thousands of homes, looking for trapped people and safety hazards and to ensure that the locals had some access to clean water and their medicines, and to provide as much information and hope that we could. We would also offer to evacuate anyone we thought was in a dangerous situation like the sick and elderly, especially with a cold front coming in.
The water was contaminated and there was no gasoline (lines stretched on for blocks), electricity, or heat. Power lines were down, making conditions deplorable and dangerous. There also was some criminal activity so curfews were in place.
Public health issues are always a major consideration in these disasters. It certainly was so at Katrina.
We met and spoke to thousands of people--remarkably brave, upbeat, strong, appreciative people. We very rarely heard a complaint about their situation.
There are always special memories from any deployment. For me it was the people themselves. Despite their situation, they would offer to feed us!!! I also remember the street sign that said “no wake zone”.
We came across a damaged, torn American flag at an abandoned house. We cleaned it off, folded it in the traditional manner, and place it on their doorstep for their return. We were proud Americans! Love that flag and what it stands for.
There was a local Fire Marshall who was unable to return home to help his family. His home suffered severe damage and there was a special needs person there. We sent a squad over, probably breaking some rules, and they did 5 days of work in 8 hours. There was not a dry eye when they told their stories at the de-briefing that night.
I also appreciate my colleagues support and understanding when I was away and my dozens of patients who were inconvenienced by my absence, not knowing when I would return. Special thanks to my assistant, Howard Mitchell, who orchestrated things while I was away. One of the finest people I know.
Unfortunately, we did not get to vote and that disturbed us greatly.
Disasters always remind us how fortunate and lucky many of us are. We need to try to enjoy each day and appreciate our loved ones. None of us is promised tomorrow.