Courtesy of MD Anderson Cancer Center
As rains pounded Houston on Sunday, Dr. Karen Lu took to Twitter and conveyed each alarm and reassurance: “Roads around @MDAndersonNews impassable. Our on-site ride out team is caring for patients and we are all safe.”
Lu is a professor of gynecologic oncology and interim chief medical officer on the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, a prime most cancers hospital and analysis middle. Earlier that morning, the hospital had despatched a high-water car — a field truck — to Lu’s neighborhood, and she or he walked eight blocks via flooded streets to satisfy it.
The storm pressured the hospital to shut to outpatients. Surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation remedy and different appointments have been placed on maintain for the 13,000 individuals MD Anderson sees every week.
Inside the hospital, docs, nurses, technicians and amenities and meals service employees have been retaining issues operating for greater than 500 inpatients and their households.
Lu spoke to Morning Edition host Mary Louise Kelly because the hospital was shifting into restoration mode Thursday.
This interview has been edited for size and readability.
When the water was highest, what did that seem like?
The fundamental street that results in the hospital was a river of about 4 ft of water.
Amazingly, our buildings withstood the storm. Over the final decade, the Texas Medical Center has re-engineered the world in order that there are floodgates that go up, and that basically protected the buildings. There have been no affected person care areas that have been impacted by the storm.
You have a ride-out workforce, which refers to employees who’ve agreed to remain put and journey out the storm. How did that work?
We had a few thousand employees right here. The unsung heroes on this catastrophe are our nurses, our lab techs, our pharmacy techs, our meals providers, our safety who stored [everyone] protected.
We had 528 sufferers who have been within the hospital on Sunday morning and doubtless one other couple hundred relations. We have been actually capable of look after these very sick people. There was no compromise in our means to look after them.
What about these outpatients whose appointments have been canceled?
[Thursday] morning, we moved to restricted outpatient providers.
We’ve had our groups, even whereas they’ve been at house, going by way of and taking a look at who urgently wants remedy. So already yesterday, we have been capable of handle these pressing wants — in surgical procedure, for chemotherapy in addition to radiation remedy.
When you speak about surgical procedure, it isn’t simply the surgeon. It’s the [operating room] nurse. It’s the surgical tech. It’s the people who sterilize our devices. So, when you can have a surgeon on website, it is all these different group members that it actually takes.
So yesterday, we examined to have the ability to see that we might safely present care, and we have been capable of do two OR instances, we have been capable of deal with over 50 people for radiation, and we have been capable of deal with about 35 very sick [leukemia patients] who wanted blood merchandise.
And at present, we’re ramping up and doing extra. And there’s a military of individuals making an attempt to succeed in out to sufferers to get them rescheduled.
Your employees on the hospital is clearly simply as affected as everybody else.
Absolutely. Prior hurricanes have impacted our buildings. Other hurricanes have impacted our analysis enterprise, our laboratory animals. I’ve to say what Harvey’s impacted is our employees. And that is what’s so heartbreaking. We consider that someplace between 30 [and] 60 % of our workforce has been impacted by Harvey — individuals whose houses have been flooded and who’ve been requested to evacuate.
Have you made it residence since Sunday?
I’ve. And I am glad, as a result of I actually need a transparent head to steer our staff to restoration. We’re energized right here at MD Anderson. Our sufferers are our focus, and we all know that they want us.
Morning Edition editor Gail Austin and producers Maria Paz Gutierrez and David Fuchs contributed to this story.