Emergency Rooms Came Through for Region During Imelda’s Chaos
Tropical Storm Imelda, the seventh wettest tropical cyclone to ever hit the United States, recently reminded us that natural disasters and catastrophic events can and do strike without warning.
Unfortunately, Texas has faced more than its fair share over the past few years. With Imelda, even weather experts were caught by surprise when more than 43 inches of rain fell in parts of Southeast Texas.
Like meteorologists, us emergency room doctors learn to expect the unexpected. While doctors, nurses and other emergency medical personnel don’t know exactly what severe injuries, illnesses or health crises we will face on each of our long shifts, we do know we need to be prepared at a moment’s notice.
During Imelda, the massive flooding from the storm shut down access to two Beaumont-area hospitals at a time when many people were in need of emergency care.
Thankfully, Southeast Texas was able to avoid disaster of another kind because the region’s well-established independent freestanding emergency centers were able to provide life-saving care when other medical facilities couldn’t.
I can personally attest to the treacherous conditions created by Imelda. It took me more than eight hours to get to work in the midst of the storm’s wrath and was only possible because of the extraordinary acts of bravery and kindness from local volunteers who delivered essential transportation via boats and trucks to those who were stranded, or have roles like mine where missing a shift is not an option.
These volunteers provided similar support to many of my colleagues and together they endured all matter of flooding, rain and wind to get to the ER.
When we finally arrived at work, we found that not only was patient volume extremely high due to the injuries and serious impairments wrought by the storm’s dangerous effects, but our patients’ conditions were far more acute than what we see on most days.
Understandably, emotions were running high.
Even our battle-hardened head nurse was brought to tears out of concern for a woman who was on death’s door. The patient was suffering from massive internal bleeding and urgently needed a blood transfusion to save her life.
We were able to get an emergency supply of blood transported to our facility, completed the transfusion and got her safely transferred to a larger regional medical center.
Because of our intervention, she’s alive today.
Know Where to Go in Case of an Emergency.
The Calm After Imelda’s Chaos
Over the past decade, Texas’ independent freestanding ERs have repeatedly stepped into the breach in times of crisis. And on a day-to-day basis, they provide essential care and save lives across Texas — to say nothing of the tens of millions of dollars these emergency care facilities provide in charity care to Texans in need every year. And yet, some still question the value and purpose of ERs outside of a hospital.
Recent times like Imelda illustrate that Texans and their families are better off when their access to ER care is unimpeded.
Without freestanding emergency centers to care for those in need, the death toll from Imelda would have undoubtedly been higher than five.
We are here 24 hours a day, every day of the year in conditions of all kinds. Texans should be reassured that lifesaving care like ours is never too far beyond reach.
Dr. Adriano Goffi, a Navy veteran and family medicine doctor who has worked in emergency medicine for more than a dozen years, is the medical director of the Altus Emergency Center in Lumberton. Altus is a member of the Texas Association of Freestanding Emergency Centers (TAFEC).
A huge thank you to the Beaumont Enterprise for sharing this guest column written by our Lumberton Medical Director, Dr. Adriano Goffi.
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