Today, I spent my morning/early afternoon at the St. Anna’s mobile medical unit. We drove to the St. Bernard Community Center, which contains a highly underserved population, to take blood pressures and blood sugar levels. Early in the day, we noticed that my blood pressure cuff was slightly off and needed to be recalibrated. Good thing we caught that!
I wasn’t able to talk as much as I wanted to with the locals, but it was inspiring to see that the community was starting to trust the healthcare system more. Celeste, the nurse who heads the mobile medical unit, shared her experiences with us and I was shocked. Celeste told us of a hospital system that hired only two helicopters to evacuate all of its patients (this same system also ended up making a lot of money from this catastrophe) while some, like Touro and Charity, went to extremes to ensure their patients’ safety. It’s a little upsetting to find out that Charity, the only free hospital in New Orleans, is closed and doesn’t seem to be reopening soon.
Later today, we went to Touro; Anna blogged about our time there, so I won’t go into much detail about that. I think that Suzanne’s story had us all tearing up a little. Katrina tested the endurance and humanity of the Touro healthcare staff to its utmost limits and left indelible marks in their hearts. So much was going on in the hospitals during Katrina and I was stunned that this was the first time I was made aware of all the obstacles they had faced in protecting their patients. Listening to all these accounts has made Katrina feel more personal to us.
On a lighter note, some of us had a 30-minute window between our morning and evening volunteer activities. During this time, I visited a cupcake place near our bed and breakfast. Anna and I had been planning to go there, but its hours are during the times we’re out at the sites. So, when I had the time today, I ran over to Jean’s Pralines and Cupcakes. It was a totally local place and smelled so nice. Their cupcakes were lovely and I was able to get a special one called “The Luck of the Irish” for Whitney. She’ll be leaving us tomorrow for her Transitions clinical in Uganda, so hopefully that cupcake will bring her some luck.
I can’t wait for tomorrow. What will we do? Who will we meet? How can we stretch our short time here to make the biggest impact?