In the Wake of Katrina: A Surgeon's First-Hand Report of the New Orleans Tragedy

Scott E. Delacroix, Jr., MD

In This Article

Sunday and Monday

Drove back into the city. I-10 and Causeway were abandoned. Good -- a sense of relief. Took River Road into the city, then St. Charles to downtown through the French Quarter. Relatively minor damage in the Garden District and the French Quarter. We made it past the Quarter onto Elysian Fields. Following us was a car with 3 LSU medical students and a Sky News crew. Down St. Claude Avenue where the water began. Close to getting stranded ourselves, we made it onto the I-10 and found South Texas K-9 rescue (Shane Rominger) at the next exit. They were launching boats and retrieving evacuees from these flooded neighborhoods. We met J. Campbell of the Los Angeles Fire and Rescue (Figure 4). He had been to Sri Lanka, through 9/11, and the earthquakes in Turkey. Unbelievable guy. The elevated I-10 in East New Orleans was the LZ for the patients as we triaged them from the boats and onto awaiting helicopters. The aluminum light poles had been cut to allow the helicopters to land. Entire families were still being rescued from these flooded neighborhoods. We continued this until nightfall and then made our way back through the city. We found respite (3 medical students, Nick, Campbell, and myself) at Ochsner Hospital on Sunday night and were given more supplies. Monday we set up a triage area on I-10 out the back of my car and continued to see patients. We did this through Monday afternoon. Organization was apparent, and there was central command for the police action in the city and the evacuation of these people. Monday evening we left for good. Sunday we had triaged about 400 patients from the I-10 exit and Monday about 50. People who wanted to leave had mostly left.

Evacuation site on elevated Interstate 10 in New Orleans East. From left to right: Dr. Scott Delacroix, MD (author); Nick Pieper EMT; J. Campbell Los Angeles Search and Rescue; Henry Hawney, fourth-year LSU medical student; Curtis Bush, fourth-year LSU medical student; and Ben Frischertz, fourth-year LSU medical student.

Monday afternoon. Decided to check out my home. Glad I live 3 blocks on the stable side of the 17th Street Canal instead of the other side. I was very fortunate. We all had a warm beer (no electricity) overlooking the helicopters, picking up sandbags, and dropping them in the canal. Cheers to the City of New Orleans. Here is to someone in Washington DC learning something about the ineptness of how this tragedy was run until early Saturday morning.

Why did FEMA pull out on Thursday morning? Why would FEMA not accept medical help on Saturday for an obviously overrun evacuation center at the New Orleans International Airport? What kind of excuse is this evolving disaster explanation? To come back on Friday in front of 1000 needy people and say that FEMA is technically not back and is here only to collect the bodies? There are problems with our current coordination of mass disasters that need to be resolved so that we do not repeat these mistakes again.

Thanks to those who stuck this out and did above and beyond:

  • EMT Mr. Nick Pieper (with me throughout);

  • Mr. Kelly Tourere, RN;

  • Mr. Danny Dickson, RN;

  • Mr. Jay Seymore SRNA (student nurse anesthesia);

  • Mr. Scott McCain SRNA;

  • Danny Page, Bill Sprake, and Tom Deschene of the Airforce Special Tactics out of Louisville;

  • Gordon Bergh and the Austin city EMS Team

  • Hiro Santania, MD;

  • J. Campbell of the Los Angeles Fire and Rescue;

  • Ochsner Hospital and the Department of Urology;

  • Arkansas State Police;

  • Louisiana State Police, especially those 4 guys from Houma (Lieutenant Marcel);

  • US Army National Guard;

  • Shane Roniger and the South Texas K-9 Unit;

  • Jimmy Guidry at DHH in Baton Rouge;

  • New Orleans Police Department;

  • All those doctors and staff stranded at Charity and University Hospitals, and

  • AMDG [Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam -- for the greater glory of God (Latin)].


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