HURRICANE HARVEY UPDATE: For more information about the impact on VA facilities and services, click here.
The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston is in the heart of a city surrounded by water left by Hurricane Harvey. VA staff and volunteers have been on site since the storm began Friday providing care for Veteran patients. Dr. SreyRam Kuy is the associate chief of staff at VA Houston. She has been sleeping in her office since the flooding began to ensure emergency operations at the facility remain fully functioning. She shared some of her experience with VAntage Point.
In the feature photo above, emergency room physician Dr. Jonmenjoy Biswas checks in with his family overnight Wednesday. Biswas and more than 700 staff in Houston have stayed at the hospital to ensure full operations.
The impact of Hurricane Harvey and the Houston flooding is enormous and the stories of courage and resilience are incredible. Here at the Houston VA, we’re sheltering homeless Veterans in addition to caring for the medical needs of Veterans and anyone else who walks in the doors, and doing so with amazing staff.
We have had nearly 700 staff staying onsite, sleeping on the floors and, if they’re lucky, tiny cots, in the auditoriums and offices, to make sure we have the clinical and operational manpower to keep the hospital running. As I checked in on the different units, conducting rounds on the medical wards, surgical wards, ICU, emergency room and dialysis units, I see how much it takes to provide care for patients during a disaster. Some of our staff have been here in the hospital for six days straight. I’m amazed by how strong these people are.
Some of these staff have no idea if their homes are affected. Others already have watched on the news footage of their flooded neighborhoods. Many have children and elderly parents at home that they worry about while caring for our critically ill Veterans. Examples of selflessness are everywhere: one of our nurses’ husband drove 12 hours through flooded streets so she could stay here and take care of patients.
And the Veterans themselves amaze me with their stories. One Veteran, a former Army ranger, swam through flood waters to come to the Houston VA hospital, because he knew that no matter what, the VA would be there to care for him. When he got here, we took care of his ruptured appendix.
It’s a privilege to care for our nation’s heroes, and it’s humbling to know that they feel they can count on us to be there. That’s why we’re here.
Dr. SreyRam Kuy is the associate chief of staff for quality, safety and value at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.