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September 07, 2005

Atlanta's Incoming Survivors

Marilyn Ringstaff is an advanced practice nurse from Rome, Georgia. She is working with the Georgia Public Health relief effort, caring for Katrina survivors at Dobbins AFB in Atlanta, Georgia.

September 7, 2005: I was with Georgia   public health for our second day of emergency relief meeting the incoming Katrina survivors at Dobbins AFB in Atlanta yesterday. Sunday we saw the most appreciative folks, but yesterday we were seeing a lot of angry people. These are the ones who said they were forced from their homes at gunpoint who didn't want to leave, or had been waiting on their roofs for rescue for several days, or who had been separated from their families. I learned that in the three days we were there, around 1500 people were screened and transported either to shelters, hospitals, or nursing homes. They were exhausted, disoriented, and many still in denial; mental health workers were present to talk with everyone.

I was there with several other nurse practitioners (NPs), but we were so handicapped by Georgia's antiquated prescriptive authority laws.  Georgia is the last state in the country that refuses to allow NPs to sign our names to a prescription. So here we were, with a building full of people we were trying to process out quickly before the next flight. We couldn't call needed prescriptions to a pharmacy because we didn't know where the patients were going; they needed a slip of paper to carry with them and also to document for the pharmacy to fill it without charge. So, we had to run around a congested air force base hanger to look for a physician to sign a prescription. I wanted to scream for FEMA to divert these patients to a more progressive state.

My first family was a family of 10 people, one of the little girls was named Katrina and when I asked her name to start the paperwork she came up and whispered it to me so no one would hear her. Five of the family members had been on their roof since Tuesday, 5 days; they ran out of food and water. They saw the helicopters going back and forth past their house, they were waving t-shirts and anything they could find 'but they just kept going on by.' We taped Pampers on the toddler's feet because the Red Cross had run out of shoes and she loved it.

Another woman, Toni, didn't know where she was. I said something like "Welcome to Atlanta," and she started crying and said "I was supposed to be in Houston." She was separated from her 17-year-old daughter; she refused food or water until she talked with her daughter in the Astrodome. Toni had heard the reports of rapes and violence in the domes and her daughter was unattended. We couldn't get through to any phones there but the Red Cross will keep trying. Contact information was put into databases as soon as available and many families were able to immediately locate each other, but we had to put Toni on a bus to a shelter without getting in contact with her daughter.

A family of 7 people arrived who had been sleeping on the bridge after reaching it by boat, and they finally decided to leave their home after the water started turning black from the bodies. They had a 3-week-old pit bull puppy with them -- they were feeding "Lady" with a dropper. Lady probably has Parvo and animal control took her to an Emergency Vet, no word yet on her condition. But I'll keep checking.

It's good to come home and see that our hometowns have so many relief efforts in place. All of these families are going to need long term support.


September 7, 2005 in Hurricane Katrina: Nurses and NPs Help | Permalink


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