Ochsner in|Depth: The Great Flood – Baton Rouge Flooding of 2016


(News Caster) Let’s get into it folks give you the rain breakdown, what we’re looking at, what we’re expecting and when the relief
will come. Rounds of rain and showers and thunderstorms, the possibility of an
additional 5 to 8 inches of rain… (Male Voice) Coming into work Friday morning thinking you’re going to have a normal day and then not leaving until sometime the
next week. That was something I wasn’t imagining. (Female Voice) I don’t think we all understood how serious it was going to be. (Female Voice) You really did not have a clear picture of how detrimental things were outside. (Male Voice) It was just like one hard thunderstorm after another and it just never stopped. (Female Voice Crying) People’s houses were flooding, they were losing everything. (All Voices Jumbling as One) You know what scared me? We have a lot of woods around us and I was driving the truck around and there were deer and
armadillos and rabbits and raccoons coming out of the woods and when I saw
that knowing that an animal’s instinct is to get out when it’s getting bad and
they’re walking through our parking lot and it’s like are they looking for
Noah’s Ark? I mean I didn’t know. Streets began to close and that’s when we begin to experience water coming over Medical Center Drive blocking our access to the
hospital and at that time we knew that things were going to be different than
what we had dealt with in the past. We were receiving numerous calls from
employees who had water in their homes… …couldn’t get to and from locations and
so we knew we really had to shelter in place. Counting myself, we really only had one other surgeon and he came in after the road
had already flooded, he sort of drove through a foot of water to get here. I actually had several employees that were not scheduled to be here who left their
families and their homes to come work… and many of them, when they were finally
able to leave, went home to flooded homes. When the Ochsner Navy arrived here at
our facility you know we talked as a group real briefly and we knew what the
plan would be should the water continue to rise, but what could we do for the
community? So the decision was made to go ahead and take some of the boats out
into the local community streets. How many organizations you go to and say “I need some boats” and you got two boats in two hours? And you’ve got administrators
out there who are not afraid to get their hands dirty. It was very refreshing
to see people who are there to help just like we were and at that point in time
it’s not about job responsibilities or what you’ve been hired to do it’s about
who you are as a person… On Sunday morning we went out to measure the water
again and the water was rising at a level that we knew we probably had less
than eight hours to move patients before we would lose power. Flight restrictions
were a thousand feet and we were at nine hundred feet so the pilots couldn’t fly
so we had to get them out with the National Guard because the depth of the
water you couldn’t get an ambulance in here. Our patients were terrified when we
told them we were going to have to evacuate them and send them to New Orleans.
They didn’t know when they were going to see their families again. Family members
were crying at the bedside as we’re loading these patients up. Now I’m having
to tell my husband and the family, you know, they’re shipping me off to New Orleans. Of
course my heart rates going fast I’m, you know, not too happy about it but we had
to get out. You know it wasn’t just about the sickness anymore, it was about life
beginning to fall apart, you know, so we were there. We were that bond and kept it
together for them. It’s like a well-oiled machine I guess. You didn’t have to say
anything just people knew what you needed or what needed to be done and
everybody just made good face to do it. Our team of folks did a outstanding job
they were very organized they printed out the medical records the patient needed
to have. And I made it a personal commitment to talk to every patient
before we put them in a vehicle to evacuate them. To explain why we made the
decision we did and let them know that they were going to other Ochsner
hospitals but they were in good hands and that we knew clinically they were
going to do just fine. And that we were still there to support
them as soon as the water went down… You know, it’s the post-disaster recovery
that’s almost as important as what you do in the actual emergency. There are a
lot of folks both in the Ochsner family and our patients families that have lost
everything. We set up the OshMart which is basically a store that employees can
shop. We set up a daycare and we don’t want the employees to worry about
bringing food or cooking food so we’ve been supplying that to them free of
charge as well. The amount of generosity that was shown with the trucks pulling
up bringing pallets of cleaning supplies baby supplies you name it it was brought
here. We have a team called Helping Hands that our facilities group out of New
Orleans has put together where we’re helping people gut their homes. The teams coming
from New Orleans to help everybody here clean their houses out, complete
strangers that we’ve never met before it’s really, really just inspiring… Everybody pulled together as a family, It’s like a huge hug going on it made me a
stronger team person it made me a better leader. I learned a lot. I don’t want ever
have to do it again but it was…it was awesome experience I guess, in that aspect, just to see how much people care about each other. We’re all human
beings and at the end of the day we all need each other no matter what the
situation may be and that’s what family is about,
that’s what togetherness is about.

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