On October 28, 2012 Superstorm Sandy hit the New York/New Jersey region, causing devastation and disruptions to millions along its path. Residents at CIR hospitals were on the frontlines of patient care and many lost access to their places of residence or were displaced entirely by the closing down of their hospitals. Though the storm represented a profound test of our safety net, CIR residents and fellows—working with nurses, attending physicians and all the other members of the healthcare team—rose to the occasion, providing compassionate care under punishing and complex conditions. The following articles represent just a few of the stories of CIR members illustrating their challenges, triumphs and reflections in the aftermath of the storm. Residents from three hospitals share their experiences Robert Wood Johnson (NJ); St. John’s Episcopal (NY); Bellevue Hospital (NY); A Message from HHC President Alan D. Aviles
People who go into emergency medicine—doctors, nurses, techs—most of us go into it with the ability to thrive in chaotic, hectic situations. After Sandy, the day-to-day moaning and groaning about the job disappeared and everyone put on their working hats because we knew we were going to be there for several days in a row.When it comes to disasters, emergency personnel are essential. More than anything, our preparation included clarifying our schedules. Everyone needed to know where they were going to be and where their colleagues would be.
The hospital administrators were amazing—they opened up the atrium, a space about half the size of a football field, to patients, their families and staff, and provided cots and a warm place for people to sleep. It was overcrowded, but most people were just happy to be somewhere that had heat. I’m always impressed by the job that a lot of the people I work with do, especially under these kinds of circumstances. Read More
The day of the hurricane proved to be much tougher than I originally anticipated. I expected a storm outside and calm inside, but when it rains it pours. There was no transportation and roads were closed down. Even the ambulances weren’t operating the day of the storm. Some of the homes near the hospital had flooded and many of their cars were completely totaled. I hadn’t fully grasped the enormity of this hurricane and its effects on the Rockaways and how our proximity to the water would affect so much.
After a hectic day of bedside procedures, inpatient needs, and a bustling emergency department, a young patient was dropped off at the hospital the night the storm hit. He had sustained a gunshot wound to the abdomen. His vitals were stable at the time, but he was in and out of consciousness. He was 16 years old. When he arrived, the main power to the hospital had gone out, and we were dependent on emergency generators. As the frantic scene unfolded before my eyes, I tried calling the attending surgeon, but the phone lines were down. Read More
Inside the Bellevue Evacuation – One Resident’s Story
As the storm raged outside, I sat in my relatively unscathed apartment and neighborhood in Brooklyn watching and reading in horror as one catastrophe after another fell upon the medical center where I had spent the past three-plus years working and learning.
First, NYU-Tisch Hospital was evacuated emergently as the storm surge flooded the basement and the backup generators failed. Then, before NYU’s email system went dark, I learned that the research animal facilities were compromised. I pictured years of hard work and numerous experiments on the verge of breakthrough going down the drain. Next, I learned that Bellevue was running on backup generators and was initiating a partial evacuation.
Bellevue is the heart and soul of the NYU psychiatry residency program. A public hospital with over 300 psychiatric beds and one of the busiest psychiatric emergency rooms, it provides care for some of the sickest, most disadvantaged people in the city, country and world. Read More
To HHC Physician Residents and Members of the CIR/SEIU
In the years that I have been President of HHC, I have witnessed with pride the accomplishments we have made. In those years, we have deepened our dedication to the mission of caring for all who come to us. We have touched the lives of millions of patients who needed us. We have made healthcare safer. We have helped our city to become healthier. And in those years, every employee and every physician resident has played a role in helping HHC to become a great and important organization.
But I have never been more proud than I have been in the weeks during and following Superstorm Sandy. During the storm, I witnessed how HHC residents repeatedly put patients and patient care first, ahead of their own personal concerns.
As we continue to move ahead with the restoration of HHC, it is important to recognize the immense contributions that members of the CIR/SEIU made before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy. Simply put, under the most stressful circumstances, your dedicated efforts made all the difference.
I thank every single resident who works at an HHC hospital. Each of you has helped to lift us, to help us stand a bit taller. All of you make HHC great. You are all heroes.
Sandy was a powerful storm and for many of us, a personal challenge. But, united and strong, we are HHC. We shall rise.
Alan D. Aviles