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New Orleans Doctors Talk to Wiregrass Peers

By: Tonya Deer
By: Tonya Deer

Two physicians who assisted with treating patients in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina spoke about their experience to other medical professionals in the Wiregrass on Thursday.

For five days after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, Dr. Kaira king and Dr. Michael Catenacci, were busy manning the emergency rooms at both Charity and Tulane hospitals in New Orleans. The doctors, who recently married, say they learned a lot about resorting to the rudiments of medicine during the storm.

Despite having no electricity, no plumbing, and no means of communication, the couple managed to treat hundreds of evacuees. Dr. Catenacci says it's imperative to have an effective means of communication, and, he says, you can never be too prepared. The doctors spent five days in what they describe as unfathomable conditions. They say dead bodies were placed in stairwells, the staff could not bathe for nearly a week and medicine and supplies were quickly running out. Dr. King says, “Our generation of doctors are trained to rely on modern technologies and we did not have those luxuries, so we had to do the best we could."

Bruce McNeal with the Southeast Alabama Medical Center in Dothan says the hospital conducts annual and semi-annual drills to help the staff there to prepare for similar disasters. Like many of their peers, Doctors King and Catenacci lost everything during the hurricane and are currently looking for work elsewhere. Neither of the two hospitals where the doctors worked will be in operation for at least a year.


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